RAPAPORT… Global Witness called upon the European Union (E.U.) to strengthen measures that restrict the sales of diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange region to Europe. The warning was issued to E.U. ministers as Global Witness took issue with Belgium leading an effort to drop sanctions against Zimbabwean diamond-mining interests.
“Global Witness’ investigations point to a serious risk that diamond revenues could be used to fund violence in this year’s election. The Belgian government is claiming concern for the Zimbabwean people; however, its true interests are closer to home in the diamond markets of Antwerp,” said Global Witness diamonds campaigner, Emily Armistead. “E.U. members seeking to promote democracy and stability in Zimbabwe should avoid a ménage-à-trois with Belgium and its diamond dealers this Valentine’s Day.”
Global Witness published a report in 2012 charging that diamond revenue is financing President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF controlled security forces, which has a history of engaging in violent behavior against civilians. Investigations have also revealed links between joint-venture diamond-mining companies in eastern Zimbabwe and military, police and intelligence organizations loyal to Mugabe, according to the group. During the previous presidential election cycle, in 2008, these same groups were involved in attacks against the opposition, reportedly killing more than 200 people and torturing and intimidating thousands.
But the diamond sanctions are designed to encourage Zimbabwe’s transition into democracy, and yet are increasingly dividing opinions across Europe’s foreign ministries, the group found. While some E.U. members believe that restrictive measures should remain in place until Zimbabwe’s elections are completed later this year, Belgium is pressing for sanctions against the state-owned diamond company, Zimbabwean Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), to be dropped immediately. Similar calls are not being made in the U.S., where ZMDC is also sanctioned by the government.
Global Witness is calling for ZMDC to remain on the list of entities affected by restrictive measures and it urges the addition of Anjin, a joint-venture diamond-mining company with links to senior Zimbabwean military officials, and Hong Kong-based businessman Sam Pa.
“Relaxing measures against Zimbabwe’s diamond sector now could mean a serious cash injection for security forces with a track record of voter intimidation and violence, just months before the 2013 election,” said Armistead. “The E.U. should hold a steady course and restrict trade with diamond-mining operations in Marange until free and fair elections have taken place.”