RAID statement on its research at Petra Diamonds’ Williamson Mine in Tanzania

This statement is published in response to a press release by Petra Diamonds on 9 September informing its shareholders of a legal claim by UK lawyers, Leigh Day, on behalf of human rights victims and a letter RAID sent to the company on August 29 raising further human rights concerns. RAID is a UK based non-governmental organisation that exposes corporate abuses and human rights violations, partnering with those harmed to hold companies to account. We have been researching human rights issues at Petra Diamonds’ Williamson Mine since September 2019, following alerts by other international NGOs and local activists.

RAID’s research is based on over 100 interviews with local residents, members of local civil society, local authorities, medical staff, journalists and former security personnel employed at Williamson Mine. Our research raises serious human rights concerns. We contacted Petra Diamonds on 29 August to share our concerns and asked for responses to a series of questions. We hope to have further meetings with the company and will shortly be publishing a full report detailing our findings.

The issues our research uncovered are alarming. They include:

  • Shootings, beatings and other assaults, including of children, by security personnel employed by the company on and around the Williamson Mine, causing serious injuries and death. RAID has received reports of at least 7 killings (of which 2 were under the age of 18) and 35 assaults including shootings, beatings, and torture since Petra acquired the mine in 2009. Many incurred life changing injuries. Williamson Mine employs Zenith Security, a Tanzanian company, to provide security at the mine.
  • Torture and cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment at a private detention centre on the Williamson Mine. RAID received numerous reports of artisanal miners and others who were detained, beaten and in some cases tortured. Many were detained for days before being transferred to state law enforcement facilities. Detainees described the Williamson detention centre as overcrowded and filthy, with only a slop bucket for toilet facilities and a lack of food. At this stage RAID is unaware of any lawful basis on which Petra operates this detention centre at the Williamson Mine.
  • Artisanal miners and others beaten, shot or otherwise injured at the Williamson Mine are often taken to company controlled Mwadui Hospital within the Williamson Mine site. RAID received at least 7 reports of victims being chained to hospital beds and/or chained to other detainees while in Mwadui Hospital. Some victims said they were denied access to their medical records.

RAID also documented a lack of engagement by the Mine with local communities. The vast majority of those interviewed stated that they did not know how they could raise concerns with the Mine, and many said they feared retribution if they did. The few who said that they had raised concerns stated that little or no helpful action was taken in response.

Threats to, and harassment and/or intimidation of human rights defenders, local journalists, and other local residents, including by police and/or local authorities, were also reported to our researchers. Such conduct appears to have escalated since RAID’s first mission in November 2019 and has targeted those who met with us and/or lawyers from Leigh Day, a UK law firm. Leigh Day works independently from RAID and have also been following-up on reports of human rights abuses. Petra Diamonds should use its leverage with authorities to seek to prevent such harassment.

“Petra Diamonds decision to inform its board and shareholders about the serious allegations is only a first step,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, the Executive Director at corporate watchdog RAID. “The company’s investigation into these serious allegations should be thorough, independent and transparent. Petra should work with appropriate authorities to ensure those responsible for any crimes are held to account and provide effective remedy to all those who suffered harm or lost loved ones.”

“Petra’s claim that its diamonds are ethical is meaningless if it does not clearly demonstrate that it has resolved these very serious human rights concerns and takes urgent steps to halt such abuses from happening again,” Van Woudenberg said.

Full statement is also available here.