Global Witness, the London-based advocacy group, said it’s withdrawing from the Kimberley Process, an organization it helped establish to monitor the sale of so-called conflict diamonds.
The group is pulling out after the “shocking” decision by the Kimberley Process last month to authorize exports by two companies operating in Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields. Members of Zimbabwe’s ruling party may use revenue from the area to fund the intimidation of voters ahead of elections in the southern African country, it said in an e-mailed statement today.
“The Kimberley Process’ refusal to confront this reality is an outrage,” Charmian Gooch, a founding director of Global Witness, said in the statement. “Consumers should not buy Marange diamonds, and the industry should not supply them. All existing contracts in the Marange fields should be canceled and re-tendered with terms of reference which reflect international best practice.”
Zimbabwe’s army seized control of the Marange area in 2008, killing about 200 miners, according to Global Witness. Smuggling of Marange diamonds through neighboring Mozambique raised concern with groups in Zimbabwe and the Las Vegas-based Rapaport Diamond Trading Network, which said Nov. 22 it will expel members found to have knowingly offered Marange diamonds for sale on the RapNet Diamond Trading Network, the world’s biggest.
The mobile phone of the current chairman of the Kimberley Process from Democratic Republic of Congo, Mathieu Yamba, was switched off when Bloomberg News called for comment. The U.S., which will chair the group in 2012, said in a joint statement on Nov. 3 with South Africa, next year’s vice-chair, that civil- society groups are is an important partner in the Kimberley Process.
Civil-society groups last month boycotted the annual plenary meeting of the organization, which was founded in 2003, in protest of several of its decisions, including those on Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe, the seventh-largest diamond producer in 2010, will probably earn about $334 million from exports of the gems this year, according to the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining and Development Corp., its main producer.
Global Witness said the Kimberley Process also failed to deal with trade in conflict diamonds from Ivory Coast and was “unwilling” to take action against breaches of the rules by Venezuela. It didn’t provide further details.
“Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes,” Gooch said.
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