US Abstains on Kimberley Process Vote – Zimbabwe Free to Export Marange Diamonds

Effectively clearing Marange blood diamonds for sale to blood diamond processor, Israel, the US abstained from the Kimberley Process plenary session vote. US and EU sanctions remain in place for Zimbabwe diamonds, yet the lifting of sanctions against diamonds from Marange will permit the diamond sales to bolster the Mugabe and apartheid Israeli regime. The KP Civil Society Coalition of NGOs, led by Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) and Global Witness commented

… the KP has “thrown away” its main point of leverage over the Zimbabwean government by allowing it to export diamonds without first fulfilling previous commitments to reform its diamond trade.

“The KP has effectively given up on Zimbabwe. KP member governments and the diamond industry seem ready to turn their back on the interests of Zimbabwe’s citizens, the public good and the principles on which the Kimberley Process was founded,” said Liberia-based Green Advocates president Alfred Brownell.

Edward Cross, an MP from Tsvangirai’s rival MDC party agrees with the NGOs and human rights organisations that the sanctions should have remained:

“I think it was absolutely wrong to allow the Marange diamonds to be sold,” he said.

“I have evidence that the value and volumes of Marange diamonds are being underestimated and are being used to subvert the democratic process in Zimbabwe.”

Rights groups accuse Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party of funnelling profits from Marange diamonds to senior military officials and party leaders.

More concerns are raised by Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe Minister for Finance and a founding member of the MDC opposition party:

But Zimbabwe’s revenue has not been fully accounted for, prompting Mr Biti to complain bitterly of systematic plundering by authorities. The minister has had several clashes with President Robert Mugabe and Mr Mpofu.

In a document seen by Business Day that Mr Biti presented to the government recently, he complained about the systematic corruption linked to the diamond fields. Mr Biti said the money from diamond sales could go towards paying public servants and other state obligations.

Diamond proceeds mostly bypass the fiscus amid suspicions that Mr Mugabe, his ministers and business allies are diverting the revenue for their own public administration and political activities. Under pressure, the Zimbabwean mines ministry yesterday claimed that it would ensure “minerals are exploited for the people’s benefit”.

Revenue has not been fully accounted for, prompting Mr Biti to complain of plundering by authorities

In the past, Mr. Biti has been arrested and detained for political reasons by the Mugabe regime.

Other diamond processor representative bodies acclaiming the removal of sanctions include India’s Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council.

Next year the US will take over the chairmanship of the KP.

Global Palestinian Solidarity Statement

Sean Clinton from Global Palestinian Solidarity writes:

“The agreement to allow the export of blood-tainted diamonds from Zimbabwe sets the Kimberley Process (KP) and the diamond industry on collision course with civil society. On Tuesday, a letter (attached) signed by over 2000 people worldwide addressed to all members of the KP was sent to KP Chair, Mr. Mathieu Yamba and to the NGOs, Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada. The letter calls for:

1. – an urgent review of the KPCS definition of a “conflict diamond” so all diamonds that generate revenue used by any group or government to commit breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law are classed as conflict or blood diamonds
2. – the ending of the use of the term “conflict free” to describe diamonds that fall outside the existing narrow KPSC definition of a conflict diamond.
3. – the introduction of a universal hallmarking system for all diamonds so consumers can be fully informed where a diamond was mined, cut and polished.

Human rights activists highlighted the fact that despite the Israeli diamond industry being a major source of revenue for the Israeli military which stands accused by the UN Human Rights Council of war crimes, Israeli diamonds are not classed as conflict or blood diamonds and are labeled conflict free by jewellers worldwide.

The decision of the Kimberley Process members to allow the export of diamonds from Zimbabwe demonstrates that the industry is unwilling to end the trade in all diamonds that fund gross human rights violations. As a result, the KP could not legally prevent the export of diamonds from the Marange area. In order to maintain the charade and keep the discredited KP in place, member states have agreed to turn a blind eye to concerns expressed by NGOs, including Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada. The agreement reached serves only the diamond industry which will once again claim that all diamonds are conflict free – a totally false and misleading claim which must be challenged.”

Related Links

NGOs slam KP decision on Zimbabwe diamond sales
Justice and Diamonds in Zimbabwe: Saving Kimberley from Itself
UNHCR | Refworld | Zimbabwe court drops charges against diamond fields activist
Zimbabwe: Rampant Abuses in Marange Diamond Fields | Human Rights Watch
Document – Zimbabwe: Human rights defender held in Zimbabwe: Farai Maguwu | Amnesty International
Physicians for Human Rights – Background on the Health Crisis in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Police Block Art Exhibition On Past Atrocities | Article-27
UN report lashes Mugabe regime
U.S. to Head Kimberley Process, but Meeting Brings Mixed Reactions
“Zimbabwe diamond sales defy U.S.-led sanctions” (Pro-Mugabe regime)
“Imperialists try to block Zimbabwe’s diamond trade” (Pro-Mugabe regime)

Palestine / Israel Links

Public Lecture by Professor Noam Chomsky