Zimbabwe `Blood Diamonds' Should Be Banned Over Rights Abuses, Group Says

Zimbabwe should be banned from selling diamonds to members of the Kimberley Process, created to end trade in stones mined to fund conflict and war, after claims of smuggling, rape and assault by the country’s army and police at its Marange gem fields, Global Witness said.

“By turning a blind eye to ongoing rights abuses, the Kimberley Process appears to be legitimising the situation in Marange,” the London-based group, which campaigns to prevent natural resource-related conflict and corruption, wrote in a report today. “The Kimberley Process should suspend Zimbabwe, until there is credible evidence that abuses have ended.”

Exclusion would stop Zimbabwe trading rough diamonds with the other 75 governments that participate in the system. The Kimberley Process decided against suspending the country in November, saying members supported its efforts to comply. Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald daily said June 8 the country had met standards to allow it to sell diamonds from Marange, citing Kimberley Process Monitor Abbey Chikane.

“Hundreds of people have been killed, and many more have been beaten, raped and forced to mine for the army and police,” Global Witness said. “The failure of KP member states to agree to suspend Zimbabwe has prompted deep concern among some KP participants and observers, who have begun to question the future of the scheme.”

Zimbabwe is also accused of abuses at Marange by New York- based Human Rights Watch, which says as many as 200 civilians may have been killed there by the military. The campaign group called for a ban on Marange diamonds unless Zimbabwe adheres to the standards of the Kimberley Process.

Banned from Trade

Rapaport Group’s RapNet Diamond Trading Network, the world’s biggest, last year banned its members from dealing in Marange gems after reports of human rights abuses.

“Consumers simply cannot understand why so many KP participants refuse to acknowledge the existence of Zimbabwean blood diamonds,” Global Witness said in its report.

The mining rights for Marange were seized from U.K.-based African Consolidated Resources Plc in October 2006 and handed to the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp. The government-controlled business last year formed partnerships with Mbada Mining (Private) Ltd. and Canadile Mines (Private) Ltd. to extract diamonds. African Consolidated is challenging the seizure of its mining claims in the Supreme Court.

An official who declined to be identified in the office of Zimbabwe Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said the minister wasn’t immediately available to comment when Bloomberg called.

The Kimberley Process, an initiative by governments, industry and civil-society groups, runs a program to certify diamonds as “conflict-free” for members who meet its requirements, according to the KP website.

Conflict diamonds are the rough gems that have been traded by rebel movements to finance wars against governments, including those in Angola, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone, according to the website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Biesheuvel in London tbiesheuvel@bloomberg.net.

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