A British mining company will pay over $7 million to settle allegations of torture and murder at ruby mines in the northeast of Mozambique. The red stones, worth millions, have been worn by international actresses Mila Kunas, Bel Powley, and Sophie Cookson, among others.
The settlement covers the murder of at least 18 people allegedly by mine security forces and Mozambican police by shooting, fatal beatings and burial while still alive.
According to the case brought by the British human rights legal firm Leigh Day, there were nearly 200 claims of beatings, torture, and sexual abuse – many leading to such serious injuries that people’s subsequent ability to work was limited. Some 95 property claims were related to the repeated burning of Namucho- Ntoro village.
More claims are possible as local people say there are many other claims which were not included in the London High Court case.
The British miner, Gemfields, which describes itself as “a leading supplier of responsibly sourced colored gemstones”, owns a 75% stake in Montepuez Mining along with a group of Mozambicans allegedly with government ties. “Instances of violence have occurred”, they say, but that they are “not liable for the alleged incidents”.
Gemfields CEO Sean Gilbertson was quoted to say: “We regard this settlement, together with the new community support mechanisms, as a critical step in allowing us to continue to develop our world-class operations at Montepuez in harmony with the local communities.”
The torture and human rights violations were first exposed by prize-winning journalist Estacio Valoi, notably in a 2015 Al Jazeera film, and were confirmed by the Mozambican Lawyers Association which cited in a Aug. 1, 2017 memo “the macabre, degrading and inhuman acts of torture and exceptional violence (that were) perpetrated by members of the riot police”.
According to an article in France24, Gemfields has already earned closed to $132.7 million from the sale of precious stones. In comparison, Mozambique was ranked 7th in a list of countries with the worst per capita income.
A film on Mozambique’s disastrous ruby history with journalist Valoi can be streamed on Al Jazeera.