Monday, June 21, 2010

Accusations of "blood diamonds" from Zimbabwe

Human Rights Watch says it has uncovered cruel oppression by Zimbabwe troops against diamond field workers. The new report says Zimbabwe troops have beaten and tortured the workers of a diamond site the government took over in 2008. Zimbabwe's government denies the allegations.

Human Rights Watch wants Zimbabwe kicked out of the "Kimberly Process," which is a group of nations that sets human rights standards to ensure it's exports are not "blood diamonds". Kicking Zimbabwe out of the group could have buyers staying away from diamonds coming from Zimbabwe.

From the UK's Telegraph, we learn more about what is in the report.

The 20-page report was published as industry leaders gathered in Tel Aviv for a Kimberley Process meeting. As its current chair, Israel is hosting the meeting.

Boaz Hirsch, the group's 2010 chairman, said this year's meeting will focus heavily on ensuring that the "minimum standards" are maintained in Zimbabwe.

The gathering will hear a report by the special Kimberley Process monitor to the Marange area, Abbey Chikane, who visited the region twice. Earlier this month, Chikane said Zimbabwe was "on track" to meet international diamond mining standards and should be allowed to resume selling diamonds in international markets. The body is expected to follow the recommendation.

The 140,000-acre Marange diamond fields were discovered in 2006, at the height of Zimbabwe's political, economic and humanitarian crisis. Villagers rushed to the area and began finding diamonds close to the surface.

The military took over the Marange diamond fields in late October 2008.

Last year, the Kimberley Process sanctioned Zimbabwe for "significant non compliance" but stopped short of expelling it.

Human Rights Watch, which previously charged Zimbabwean troops with killing more than 200 people, raping women and forcing children to search for the gems in Marange, wants the sanctions to go further this year.

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