Friday, July 01, 2011

Blood Diamonds are still being mined in Zimbabwe

Some blood diamonds may have slipped though regulatory cracks and will soon hit Western marketplace.

Monitoring which diamonds are mined without any human rights abuses is done by a voluntary industry based regulatory board. The board called Kimberley Process Certification Scheme may have had a big loophole exposed in its certification scheme.

Diamonds that are mined in the Marange fields of Zimbabwe have always passed the Kimberly certification. This is despite the fact that the fields are operated by Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe who has violated many human rights during his rule.

From the Inter Press Service, writer Lily Hough describes the loophole in the diamond certification process.

Since Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe quickly seized control of the Marange diamond fields following their discovery in 2006, exports from the area have generously funded his repressive party and come under a harsh spotlight in the international community.

According to a 2009 report by Human Rights Watch, Mugabe's soldiers have massacred at least 200 individual miners and enlisted conscripted labourers - including children – who work in appalling conditions in locations where reports of torture and murder have gone unpunished.

A statement by HRW last week reported that the Kinshasa Intersessional came three months after its new chairperson Mathieu Yamba made a unilateral announcement authorising Zimbabwe to export Marange stones without any monitoring of human rights abuses or proof of compliance with KP requirements.

"Miners, retailers, and consumers have relied on the Kimberley Process to stop blood diamonds from being sold, but with Yamba's decision, the KP has betrayed their trust," said Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch.

"What the KP has done here is essentially legitimised a dictator," Tom Zoellner, author of "The Heartless Stone: A Journey through the World of Diamonds, Deceit and Desire", told IPS. "The industry was acting in enlightened self interest when they [created] the KP, but it was never the ironclad mechanism that they sold it, it has discredited itself thoroughly as a regulatory body."

The KP is no stranger to such criticism. Since its inception in 2000, a response to a decade of pressure from the United Nations, KP's protocol has often come under fire for conceptual weaknesses that limit its regulatory viability; particularly, its consistent failure to articulate a comprehensive definition of the term "conflict" even while purporting to be a global watchdog of "conflict diamonds".

"It had no provisions for when a government brutalises its own people," Zoellner told IPS. "When the Marange fields were discussed, the [KP] was one of the greatest gifts that came to Mugabe."

HRW added that, "[According to the KP's] rules, a conflict diamond is narrowly defined as one sold by a rebel group to wage war against a government."

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