Kimberley Process: Halt Zimbabwe Diamond Trade

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Kimberley Process: Halt Zimbabwe Diamond Trade

Despite Promises to Reform, New Abuses by Military

TEL AVIV - The government of Zimbabwe has broken its promises under the
Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) work plan to improve
abusive practices in its diamond fields and should formally be
suspended from the Kimberley Process, Human Rights Watch said in a
16-page report released today.

Participants in the Kimberley Process - governments, the diamond
industry, and civil society groups that seek to eradicate the trade in
blood diamonds - are meeting June 21 to 23, 2010, in Israel, which
chairs the group this year. The ongoing human rights violations in and
around Zimbabwe's Marange diamond fields should be at the top of their
agenda, Human Rights Watch said.

"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?"

Human Rights Watch has received new reports that soldiers in Marange
are engaging in forced labor, torture, beatings, and harassment. Human
Rights Watch documented
rampant killings 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.

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. 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. The country's finance minister, Tendai Biti, said in
March that no revenue from Marange diamonds had yet reached 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.

At its plenary meeting in November 2009 in Swakopmund, Namibia, Kimberley Process members, rather than suspend Zimbabwe, called
for the country to adhere to a work plan that Zimbabwe itself had
proposed. The plan commits the country to a phased withdrawal of the
armed forces from the diamond fields (but without specific time lines),
directs police to provide security for the area, and provides for a
monitor, agreed to by both Zimbabwe and the Kimberley Process, to
examine and certify that all shipments of diamonds from Marange meet
Kimberley Process standards.

Since November, the Zimbabwe government has allocated a small
portion of the Marange diamond fields to two private firms with close
links to high-ranking members of the armed forces and ZANU-PF. Large
parts of the Marange area remain under direct military control.

Chikane has made two visits to Zimbabwe. His latest visit, in May,
was marked by controversy. While he was there, Zimbabwean intelligence
officials raided the
Mutare office of a leading civil society organization, the Centre for
Research and Development (CRD), two days after the group's leader,
Farai Maguwu, met with Chikane and discussed confidential information
about the Zimbabwean armed forces' continued presence in Marange.

Police beat up, arrested, and detained members of Maguwu's family.
Facing threats to himself and his family, Maguwu felt forced to turn
himself in to the police. He is in jail, though he was not charged
within the legally required 48 hours, and his family is in hiding, as
are staff members of his organization. Chikane said that some of his
notes were seized by intelligence agents from his bags but he has
neither called for an investigation nor publicly condemned the jailing
of Maguwu.

"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."

Chikane's preliminary report,
issued on March 21, following a visit that month, focused largely on
the narrow technical aspects of diamond mining and played down the
abuses in Marange. Although killings by Zimbabwean state agents are
fewer in the area compared with the height of military repression in
October 2008, local residents told Human Rights Watch that there are
new abuses and that they live in fear of the army.

As one community leader told Human Rights Watch, "Soldiers routinely
force us to mine for diamonds; if anyone refuses they are tortured.
Life in Marange is hell."

Human Rights Watch 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. The organization has also urged the global
group to recognize human rights issues explicitly as a fundamental
element of its mandate and raison d'être.

A member of the Parliament Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy,
who was barred from visiting the area despite having the official
responsibility to do so, told Human Rights Watch, "Our natural
resources in Marange are being looted on a massive scale daily. And yet
government turns a blind eye and pretends all is well, and wishes for
the KPCS and the world to believe all is well in Marange."

 

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Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.

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