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Zimbabwe bank to safeguard diamonds

HARARE, Jan 27 – Zimbabwe\’s Supreme Court has ordered the central bank to safeguard millions of dollars\’ worth of diamonds from a mine where the military is accused of killings and forced labour, a lawyer said Wednesday.

The latest ruling stems from an ownership battle over the mines in eastern Zimbabwe, with a British firm and a government mineral corporation locked in a tug-of-war over the valuable deposits.

"The chief justice said the diamonds should be kept by a neutral party pending the resolution of an ownership dispute which is before the court," said Jonathan Samkange, lawyer for British firm African Consolidated Resources (ACR).

"The Supreme Court court ordered that the all the diamonds extracted from African Consolidated Resources by the the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation be returned," Samkange told AFP.

The company is embroiled in a legal fight with the government-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation over the ownership of Chiadzwa diamond fields in the country\’s eastern Marange districts.

The government mining corporation began mining diamonds in Chiadzwa while ACR was contesting the cancellation of its mining licence in 2007.

Samkange said the court order affects 129,000 carats of diamonds, including gems mined by ACR and seized by police as well as all the precious stones mined since.

The minefields attracted the attention of rights groups after reports of beatings and deaths of illegal gold panners by security forces.

Rights groups have been lobbying for a ban on Marange diamonds, after a team from the Kimberley Process against "conflict diamonds" rebuked security forces deployed at the minefields for gross human rights violations.

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