ZIMBABWE: Court ruling tests patience of blood diamond activists

http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?Reportid=88968


Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Cut diamonds

JOHANNESBURG, 29 April 2010 (IRIN) – Global Witness, a leading light in establishing the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), a global system to prevent “blood diamonds” being sold into the market, is facing a “dilemma” now that the Zimbabwe High Court has allowed the sale of stones from the Marange diamond fields.

There have been reports from Marange that “the military … carried out widespread atrocities in the diamond fields, including murder, rape and forced labour”, Global Witness said in a statement. The court ruling, “apparently” approving the sale of 129,000 carats of diamonds, was in contravention of the Kimberley Process, to which Zimbabwe is a signatory.

“If the government goes ahead with its plan to sell diamonds without prior approval from the Kimberley Process, it will be in breach of its commitments and should face suspension. Member states will need to act swiftly if they want to maintain the credibility of the scheme and protect consumer confidence in the international diamond market,” Global Witness campaigner Elly Harrowell warned in the statement.

In 2009 a KPCS action plan called for Zimbabwe’s compliance with the scheme, but there was “no sign that the country has yet implemented the necessary reforms”, including demilitarization of the Marange diamond fields, the statement said.

To stay or go

When asked if the organization would withdraw its support from the scheme, Global Witness spokesperson Amy Barry told IRIN: “I don’t know if we are there yet, [but] we are definitely getting close to asking those questions.”

Global Witness is part of civil society representation on the KPCS, which also draws on governments and the diamond industry to strangle the trade in conflict diamonds. Barry said the organization was taking the view that “working on the inside, not just shouting from the sidelines”, was the best approach at this stage.

After the court ruling, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Mines, Obert Mpofu, told state media: “We are going to benefit from our diamonds, whether with the KP or not.”

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