Campaigners Call for Urgent Action on Zimbabwe

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RAPAPORT…  Press Release: Kimberley Process (KP) members must act on the overwhelming evidence of Zimbabwe’s failure to comply with the minimum requirements of the rough diamond certification scheme, said civil society groups today, ahead of the KP’s annual meeting in Namibia.

The Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, whose members include Global Witness, Partnership Africa Canada and Green Advocates of Liberia, warned that failure to make a decision about Zimbabwe’s status is compromising the scheme’s credibility and undermining chances for the successful eradication of the trade in conflict diamonds.

Since the discovery in 2006 of significant alluvial diamond deposits in Marange in eastern Zimbabwe, controls on the country’s diamond sector have been nonexistent and communities in and around the diamond fields have borne the brunt of a series of brutal measures designed to restore state control over the area. The authorities have failed to stop the military from carrying out abuses and profiting from the illicit trade in diamonds, effectively condoning – and perhaps even encouraging – the looting and attendant violence against civilians.

“What is going on in Zimbabwe is against both the spirit and the law of the Kimberley Process. At the meeting next week, member governments must agree to suspend Zimbabwe from importing and exporting rough diamonds,” said Annie Dunnebacke from Global Witness. “But suspension alone will not address the challenges in Marange: Kimberley Process members must also engage closely with Zimbabwe to ensure that promises of reform become a reality.”

“Zimbabwe must urgently implement recommendations made by the Kimberley Process Review Mission that visited the country last June,” said Susanne Emond from Partnership Africa Canada. “The authorities must demilitarize the Marange diamond fields, establish robust internal controls and hold to account those responsible for human rights abuses carried out in the area.”

The lack of decisive action on Zimbabwe has also served to distract governments from other cases that require urgent KP attention. A United Nations (UN) expert report on Côte d’Ivoire published this week found an increase in diamond exploitation in the north of the country, an area still under the military control of the Forces Nouvelles rebel group.

Conflict diamonds from Cote d’Ivoire continue to be exported in spite of UN sanctions and are laundered into the legitimate KP trade through neighboring states and international trading centers — including both member and non-member countries. As the Forces Nouvelles continue to profit from this illegal trade, the UN reports that elements within the group are re-arming. 

Alfred Brownell of Green Advocates said, “Governments’ inadequate response to these cases has emphasised the urgent need for reform of the Kimberley Process. At present, timely action is consistently hampered by inefficient and obstructive procedure — this needs to change if the scheme is to fulfil its potential and its mandate.”

Campaigners highlight a number of areas where reform is vital:

• Governments should introduce explicit provisions that bind KP members to ensure basic human rights in their diamond sectors;
• The consensus-based decision-making process must be reformed in order to allow swift action and to avoid deadlocks;
• The KP needs an independent statistical analysis, monitoring and research capacity that sets a high standard of evaluation, avoids conflicts of interest and ensures follow-up; and
• The KP’s commitment to diamonds for development must translate into concrete action, particularly in artisanal producing countries.

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