Kimberley Process: Halt Zimbabwe Diamond Trade

The government of Zimbabwe has broken its promises under the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) work plan to improve abusive practices in its diamond fields and should formally be suspended from the Kimberley Process, Human Rights Watch said in a 16-page report released today.

Participants in the Kimberley Process – governments, the diamond industry, and civil society groups that seek to eradicate the trade in blood diamonds – are meeting June 21 to 23, 2010, in Israel, which chairs the group this year. The ongoing human rights violations in and around Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields should be at the top of their agenda, Human Rights Watch said.

"The Kimberley Process risks total irrelevance if it ignores these ongoing abuses," said Rona Peligal, acting Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "If the Kimberley Process can’t take real action on an issue like Zimbabwe, then what is it good for?"

Human Rights Watch has received new reports that soldiers in Marange are engaging in forced labor, torture, beatings, and harassment. Human Rights Watch documented rampant killings and other abuses in Marange last year. Despite these ongoing abuses, Abbey Chikane, the South African monitor appointed by the Kimberley Process to investigate conditions in the area, has recommended allowing diamond sales from Marange to resume.

As Zimbabwe recovers from a man-made humanitarian crisis, diamond revenues could provide the country with resources for improved education, health, and nutrition, among other basic needs. In its research, Human Rights Watch found that there is so little proper regulation of diamond mining that vast sums are leaving the country unaccounted for. The country’s finance minister, Tendai Biti, said in March that no revenue from Marange diamonds had yet reached state coffers. With an intensified military presence, diamond smuggling may actually have increased, benefitting only an elite few in the party of President Robert Mugabe, ZANU-PF, and its allies.

At its plenary meeting in November 2009 in Swakopmund, Namibia, Kimberley Process members, rather than suspend Zimbabwe, called for the country to adhere to a work plan that Zimbabwe itself had proposed. The plan commits the country to a phased withdrawal of the armed forces from the diamond fields (but without specific time lines), directs police to provide security for the area, and provides for a monitor, agreed to by both Zimbabwe and the Kimberley Process, to examine and certify that all shipments of diamonds from Marange meet Kimberley Process standards.

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