Watchdog joins diamond campaign


Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international human rights watchdog, has joined the campaign to stop diamonds from the controversial Chiadzwa diamond fields from being cleared saying Zimbabwe has broken its promises under the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) work plan.
The report was released yesterday, coinciding with the start of the Kimberley Processing Intercessory meeting in Tel Aviv, Israel, which is set to deliberate on Zimbabwe’s controversial diamonds.
In its 16-page report, HRW alleged Zimbabwe had failed to improve its human rights record in the Chiadzwa diamond fields and should formally be suspended from the Kimberley Process.
The government denied there were any human rights violations at Chiadzwa saying such charges were being raised by its detractors.
Several international organisations have called for action against Zimbabwe for alleged rights violations at Chiadzwa.
Participants in the Kimberley Process, governments, the diamond industry, and civil society groups that seek to eradicate the trade in blood diamonds – are meeting in Israel, which chairs the group this year.
“The Kimberley Process risks total irrelevance if it ignores these ongoing abuses,” said Rona Peligal, acting Africa Director at Human Rights Watch.
“If the Kimberley Process can’t take real action on an issue like Zimbabwe, then what is it good for?”
HRW said it had received new reports that soldiers deployed at Chiadzwa were engaged in forced labour, torture, beatings and harassment.
It said it had documented alleged cases of deaths and other abuses in Marange last year.
“Despite these ongoing abuses, Abbey Chikane, the South African monitor appointed by the Kimberley Process to investigate conditions in the area, has recommended allowing diamond sales from Marange to resume,” said Peligal.
The report alleged proceeds from the sale of diamonds from Chiadzwa were not being channeled to the treasury.
“As Zimbabwe recovers from a man-made humanitarian crisis, diamond revenues could provide the country with resources for improved education, health and nutrition, among other basic needs,” Peligal said.
“In its research, Human Rights Watch found that there is so little proper regulation of diamond mining that vast sums are leaving the country unaccounted for.”
Peligal said Zimbabwe’s Finance minister, Tendai Biti, said in March that no revenue from Marange diamonds had yet reached dry state coffers.
“With an intensified military presence, diamond smuggling may actually have increased, benefitting only an elite few in the party of President Robert Mugabe, ZANU-PF, and its allies,” Peligal said.
HRW said it was worried about the arrest and detention of Farai Maguwu, a diamonds rights researcher, arrested after he passed on a sensitive document to Abbey Chikane.
“If Zimbabwe is jailing activists for writing about abuses connected to diamond mining, then it is hardly meeting the minimum standards for Kimberley Process membership,” Peligal said.
“In addition, the chaos – and allegations – surrounding Chikane’s visit and his approach call into question the credibility, professionalism, and integrity of his work.”
Peligal said HRW has repeatedly called on Kimberley Process members to demand an end to human rights violations and smuggling in Marange and to insist on transparency and accountability within Zimbabwe’s diamond industry.