Human Rights Groups Blast KP for Failure to Suspend Zimbabwe

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RAPAPORT…  Press Release: The Kimberley Process (KP) rough diamond certification scheme failed to reach a consensus to suspend Zimbabwe at this week’s plenary meeting in Namibia, in spite of evidence of serious non-compliance with the KP’s requirements and widespread government-sponsored human rights abuses, said civil society groups today.
“Governments’ failure to suspend Zimbabwe points to fundamental weaknesses in the scheme’s procedures and to a serious lack of political will to take decisive action when countries are not implementing minimum standards,” said Annie Dunnebacke from Global Witness. “This undermines the scheme’s effectiveness and compromises those participants who implement the system in good faith. It also sends the message that there will be no serious consequences for those who break the rules.”
A joint-action plan was agreed upon with the government of Zimbabwe to bring the country back into compliance. The plan provides for a KP-appointed monitor to verify all shipments of diamonds from the Marange diamond fields prior to exportation. However, the plan does not address the wider context of non-compliance in Zimbabwe’s KP system. There is no mention of the central role the Zimbabwean army continues to play in mining and smuggling, nor does it refer to past and ongoing human rights abuses.
Susanne Emond from Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) said, “If Zimbabwe cooperates with the KP and implements the provisions it has agreed to on paper, it will be an improvement from the status quo. But the action plan falls short of addressing the most serious issues raised by the KP review mission team last July. The government of Zimbabwe must bring to an end the horrific abuses in the Marange diamond fields and hold to account those responsible for the extra-judicial violence.”
This week’s proceedings were dominated by the KP’s attempt to tackle the crisis in Zimbabwe to the detriment of progress on other key issues, including the need for reform of the KP itself. The KP must clarify its approach to human rights in the diamond sector, develop a more rigourous and independent capacity for monitoring implementation and develop more effective decision-making procedures. All of these tasks will require renewed political will.
“We hope that the Israeli chairmanship in 2010 will provide the leadership and direction that has been so conspicuously absent throughout this year,” said Alfred Brownell from Green Advocates, Liberia. 
Representatives at the meeting also expressed concern about the growing trade in conflict diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire and the challenges in implementing KP controls in West Africa. Governments, industry members and civil society renewed their commitments to increase collaboration and improve Kimberley Process implementation at the regional level. This will include the development of tools to identify Ivorian diamonds, as well as measures for closer KP monitoring of rough diamond exports from Guinea. Constructive and positive discussions also took place about the links between diamonds and development, but will need to be followed up by concrete action in order to make a real difference to diamond-mining communities.
Annie Dunnebacke, Global Witness: 44.7703.108.401
Susanne Emond, Partnership Africa Canada (PAC): 1.613.882.6778
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