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Global Witness Leaves Kimberley Process

The Kimberly Process (KP) Certification Scheme applies to rough diamonds, with stakeholding firms and countries producing certificates that allowing processed rough diamonds to freely enter the retail market regardless that revenue from that added-value processing funds State’s war crimes and human rights abuses against local populations.

The Kimberly Process, initiated with the best of intentions, is today seriously flawed and is used by the diamond industry and jewellers to misrepresent the industry to consumers by telling them that all diamonds are now “conflict free”.

Whereas the previous blatant sale of conflict diamonds has been greatly lessened, and that trade minimised to quite an extent, what has not been remedied is the work conditions thus human rights abuses associated with the mining. This is in particular regard to Zimbabwe and the Marange diamond fields.

Kimberley Process (KP) founding member Global Witness has quit the scheme citing failures of reform and for the KP certification enabling besides ignoring human rights abuses in the diamond pipeline.

The scheme signed in January 2003 was aimed at cutting off ‘blood diamonds’ financing for rebel groups fighting a UN-recognized government. Subsequent loosening of the controls allowing exports from Zimbabwe’s Marange mine has exposed a loophole in that there is no mechanism to hold either the industry or producer countries to account.

Campaign group Global Witness, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for its work on conflict diamonds, said to the press: “The Kimberley Process is essentially giving its stamp of approval to blood diamonds,” according to Annie Dunnebacke, a senior campaigner at Global Witness.

To quote Rapport News: “The World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB), in recognizing the group’s contributions, noted that the KP has been slow to reform, but it is the only organization able to help Zimbabwe improve diamond mining. The World Diamond Council (WDC) requested Global Witness reconsider its decision since leaving the bargaining table is counterproductive to the greater cause. WDC said Zimbabwe must account for and allow only exports from those operations that have demonstrated compliance; Cote d’Ivoire is working to ensure procedures are in place and compliance is achieved; and that Venezuela must provide documentation by December 20 or it will be removed from the KP.”

The Marange diamond fields have been plagued with violence over many years. A joint work plan was agreed years ago between the Kimberley Process and the Zimbabwean government, which aimed at bringing Zimbabwe back into line with the scheme’s minimum requirements. However, almost no progress has been made on key aspects of this plan, including smuggling and demilitarization of the diamond fields. Despite this, a number of governments supported a resumption of exports. Fact is, the KP does nothing to address human rights violations and remains a broken system.

In last years aauctions buyers from the United States, Israel, Russia, Lebanon and India were at the auction at Harare’s airport, some with pilots waiting to fly them out of the country afterwards.

Allegations that the Zimbawe military committed atrocities when it took control of the Marange fields in late 2008, forcing out tens of thousands of small-scale miners, brought the issue to worldwide attention with documented killings of hundreds of people by the Zimbabwean military, torture, and the use of forced labour – including children – in the diamond fields, according to reports by Human Rights Watch.

About The Author

Tony Henderson is a freelance writer working in Hong Kong, since 1980, and previously Japan, for seven years following two years in Mauritius after a year in Libya. Long time participant in the Humanist Movement and spokesman for Universal Humanism in Hong Kong. Also, Pressenza Hong Kong Bureau Chief.

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