Zim diamonds under spotlight

MUMBAI, India — Zimbabwean diamonds could be classified as “conflict diamonds” and barred from world markets, if rights groups meeting here have their way.

At the Kimberley Process (KP) reform meetings currently underway in Mumbai, India, the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition (KPCSC), a coalition of rights groups involved in the diamond industry, are lobbying for a new definition of conflict diamonds that could restrict market access for Zimbabwean gems if applied.

The new definition would include reference to “public security forces or private (including criminal or mercenary) armed groups”, as well as to “systemic and
widespread violence, forced labour, the worst forms of child labour and violations of international humanitarian law”.

The KPCSC cites Angola and Zimbabwe as examples of countries where both State security forces and private security have “committed atrocities to clear land for large scale mining”. Cases of shootings by “private security actors also remain an issue in a number of producer States”, according to the grouping.

“To some, this may all sound like old news”, says Farai Maguwu of the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), a KPCSC member organisation based in
Manicaland. “But for affected communities, it remains today’s tragedy.”

Consumers are becoming more sensitive to the origin of the diamonds used in the jewellery they buy, the activists say.

“In this information age, it’s increasingly difficult to ignore links between diamonds and ethics issues like violence,” says Shamiso Mtisi, KPCSC member and
head of the Zimbabwean Environmental Lawyers Association. “The only way to counter these negative associations is to stop them from happening.”

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India wants Zimbabwe diamonds

In April, the Indian diamond hub of Surat, where 90% of the gems sold globally are cut and polished, said it planned to set up direct links with Zimbabwe to
access the country’s “cheaper” and high quality diamonds. KPCSC is opposed to this plan, saying: “Such a perspective raises concerns about the exploitation of unethical practices for profit and may risk fuelling their continuation.”

The campaign at the KP meeting is part of a broader push by rights groups against Zimbabwean diamonds.

In 2018, KPCSC said, “We find it extremely difficult to classify Zimbabwe’s Marange diamonds as conflict free” due to the security measures in the area.
Earlier this year, CNRG appealed to the UN to classify Zimbabwean stones as “blood diamonds”. The activists plan to lobby for Zimbabwean diamonds to be banned
at a UN meeting this September.

The Kimberley Process, the global diamond certification body, lifted the ban on Zimbabwean diamonds in 2011 after a series of inspections. However, Zimbabwe’s diamonds are still struggling to shake off their bad reputation.

In April, Tiffany’s, the leading US jeweller, said it would not buy diamonds from Angola and Zimbabwe. Apart from ethical considerations for the company, under
US measures on Zimbabwe, American companies such as Tiffany’s still cannot buy diamonds from the country.

Zimbabwean diamonds were shunned by the world after the invasion of the Marange diamond fields by thousands of illegal miners in the 2000s. The military
crackdown that followed to restore order in the fields further alienated the country. Despite winning the Kimberley Process certification, controversy remained
as government and State-aligned joint ventures monopolised mining.
Zimbabwean diamonds: New policy

In 2016, government booted out the miners and gave itself all control of diamond mining in the area. Hoping to clean up the industry, government announced a new diamond policy in December, which allowed private companies to return to the fields. Russia’s Alrosa, RioZim, State-owned ZCDC, Chinese firm Anjin and
United Kingdom-listed Vast Resources are to share diamond production.

In his 2019 budget statement, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube also took further steps to increase transparency, announcing that Zimbabwe would join the
Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, a global standard for the extractive resources under which Zimbabwe would be compelled to more openly disclose
data on minerals, production and earnings.

However, the campaign by rights groups, and Tiffany’s position, reflect how much more work Zimbabwe still needs to do before its diamonds are viewed as
completely clean.

Zimbabwe reached peak diamond output of 12 million carats in 2012. This year, ZCDC plans to lift output to 4.1 million carats from 2.8 million carats in 2018.

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2 Comments

  1. No surprise that the Kimberley Process cartel keeps the focus on African blood diamonds while the far more lucrative trade in cut and polished blood diamonds continues unchallenged by the powers that control the KP.
    The Indian diamond industry for example is a major trading partner of the Israeli diamond industry which is a highly significant source of revenue (US$1 bn/yr) used to fund the Israeli military. Approximately 20% of diamonds sold worldwide in value terms are processed in Israel and funding a regime guilty of gross HR violations.
    Leading non-governmental organisations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights organisation B’tselem have documented a litany of systematic, serial human rights abuses by Israeli government forces.
    Several United Nations investigations of Israel’s actions, from the 2002 massacre in Jenin, the war in Lebanon in 2006 and successive attacks on Gaza in 2008/9, 2012 and 2014 have concluded that Israeli forces committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
    In the latest report published February 28, 2019 a UN Independent Commission of Inquiry into the killing of 189 unarmed Palestinians including thirty five children and the maiming and wounding with live ammunition of over 6100 more found that Israeli soldiers committed war crimes and crimes against humanity and intentionally targeted civilians including children, medics, journalist and persons with disabilities.
    Consumers are being conned, sold diamonds soaked in the blood of innocent Palestinian civilians. This fraud will eventually cost the diamond industry dearly.

  2. No one should be surprised that the only diamonds the Kimberley Process members are concerned about are those rough diamonds linked to human rights violations in certain African countries. Keeping consumers and main stream media focused on Africa allows the far more lucrative trade in cut and polished blood diamonds to continue unchecked and fully legally below the radar of public scrutiny.
    Israel is the world’s biggest net beneficiaries of the global diamond trade with exports worth $22 billion gross ($11 bn net) in 2014 – multiples of any African country. It is estimated that revenue from the Israeli diamond industry generates $1bn annually in funding for the Israeli military. India, which chairs the KP this year, is a major trading partner of the Israeli diamond industry. Leading non-governmental organisations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights organisation B’tselem have documented a litany of systematic, serial human rights abuses by Israeli government forces.
    Several United Nations investigations of Israel’s actions, from the 2002 massacre in Jenin, the war in Lebanon in 2006 and successive attacks on Gaza in 2008/9, 2012 and 2014 have concluded that Israeli forces committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
    In the latest report published February 28, 2019 a UN Independent Commission of Inquiry into the killing of 189 unarmed Palestinians including thirty five children and the maiming and wounding with live ammunition of over 6100 more found that Israeli soldiers committed war crimes and crimes against humanity and intentionally targeted civilians including children, medics, journalist and persons with disabilities.
    Despite these facts the diamond industry continues to tell consumers the trade in blood diamonds has all but been eliminated when in fact about 20% of the market share in value terms are processed in Israel and funding an apartheid regime guilty of gross human rights violations.

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