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

Israelis and others bought undocumented diamonds

One of the latest cables released by Wikileaks reveals an illicit trade in Zimbabwean diamonds. The cable, dated 12th November, 2008 states in summary:

The CEO of a British mining company described to us how high-ranking Zimbabwean government officials and well-connected elites are generating millions of dollars in personal income by hiring teams of diggers to hand-extract diamonds from the Chiadzwa mine in eastern Zimbabwe. They are selling the undocumented diamonds to a mix of foreign buyers including Belgians, Israelis, Lebanese, Russians and South Africans who smuggle them out of the country for cutting and resale elsewhere. Despite efforts to control the diamond site with police, the prospect of accessible diamonds lying just beneath the soil’s surface has attracted a swarm of several thousand local and foreign diggers. The police response has been violent, with a handful of homicides reported each week, though that number could grow as diggers arm themselves and attract police and army deserters to their ranks.

Further, the cable says:

¶7. (C) The diamonds that are not sold to regime members and elites, but instead are sold directly to foreign buyers, actually constitute the majority of the diamond trade in Chiadzwa. Cranswick said that around 85 percent of the diamonds extracted from Chiadzwa are sold directly to foreign buyers. Even so, he conservatively estimated that Mujuru, Gono and the rest were probably each making several hundred thousand dollars a month.

¶8. (C) Whether bought first by regime members or not, eventually the diamonds are sold to a mix of Belgians, Israelis, Lebanese (the largest contingent), Russians, and South Africans. A well-known buyer named Gonyeti fronts for Gono, as do two other buyers named Tendai Makurumidze and Takunda Nyaguze, according to Mutasa. Once sold to foreigners, the majority of the diamonds are smuggled to Dubai and sold at the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre Authority, a dedicated economic free-trade zone created in 2002 for the exchange of metals and commodities, most notably gold and diamonds. Although Zimbabwe is a participant in the Kimberley process, the diamonds from Chiadzwa are undocumented and therefore are not in compliance with Kimberley, which requires loose uncut diamonds to be certified.

¶9. (C) The highest quality diamonds are not sent to Dubai, but are shipped to Belgium, Israel, or South Africa for cutting. Despite this wide dispersal, Chiadzwa diamonds are very distinctive because of their age, color, and clarity and can easily be traced back to the Marange mine, according to Cranswick. He implicated Ernie Blom, president of South Africa’s Diamond Merchants Association in the illicit trade of Chiadzwa diamonds, and said that Blom had been known to boast of his involvement in illegal Zimbabwean diamonds. When asked why purportedly reputable diamond dealers would involve themselves in Chiadzwa, Cranswick said that the site was “massive” with tremendous profit potential that was attracting numerous buyers. One such group consisted of Russians who had recently bought US$500,000 worth of diamonds at an MMCZ auction, paying US$29/carat. They bought eight to ten carat rough diamonds, five to ten percent of which were gem quality.

¶10. (C) The diamond frenzy in Chiadzwa has led to hundreds and possibly thousands of homicides. Word of easy diamonds spurred a rush of Zimbabwean and foreign diggers to the area including Angolans, Congolese, Mozambicans, South Africans and Zambians, as well as diggers from as far away as Sierra

Yesterday a Swiss group urged Bern to bar sale of Marange diamonds from Zimbabwe.

The organization said the definition of “blood diamonds” used by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme should be updated to include human rights violations by forces of the state. The present definition refers to rebel forces, a loophole that has allowed Harare to market Marange diamonds internationally under Kimberley supervision.

The Zimbabwe Advocacy Office, local partner of Bread For All, reports ongoing rights violations in the Marange diamond field of Manicaland province.

Diamonds from Marange are currently barred from export until the Kimberly Process has achieved a consensus on the disposition of the Zimbabwean stones. The organization met in Israel last month but was unable to reach a consensus on Marange gems.

Zimbabwean Mines Minister Obert Mpofu has threatened to sell diamonds with or without Kimberley approval, saying Zimbabwe has met all of the group’s requirements.

But political analyst Charles Mangongera said Harare must first address human rights abuses in Marange and completely demilitarize the zone, among other outstanding items in a work plan to which it agreed at a 2009 Kimberley Process meeting.

Israel is currently chairs the Kimberley Process. A boycott of Israeli cut diamonds has been called as Israeli diamonds cannot be regarded as conflict-free while Israel maintains its illegal apartheid, crimes against humanity, occupation and brutalisation of the people of Palestine.

Most people are unaware that the majority of diamonds on display in Jewellers’ windows are likely to have been manufactured in apartheid Israel and that their purchase helps to fund Israel’s illegal occupation and Zionist crimes against humanity. Israeli diamonds are de facto Blood Diamonds.

Significant revenues from corporation and personal taxes accrue to the Israeli state form the diamond industry each year. This helps to fund the 60 year long illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and associated crimes including murder, ethnic cleansing, home demolitions, destruction and theft of land and collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

Boycott Israeli Diamonds

The UN-based Kimberley Process which seeks to eliminate the trade in diamonds from conflict zones only applies to uncut or rough diamonds. It does not control to trade in polished diamonds from conflict zones. This has allowed jewellers to continue selling Israeli diamonds, conveniently ignoring the war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by Israel, the world’s No1 producer of cut and polished diamonds.

Consumers and jewellers presently have no way of distinguishing which diamonds are cut and polished in Israeli and which are crafted in countries that respect human rights and international law. Consumers have a right to know not only where the diamond was mined (as certified by the Kimberley Process) but also the country where it was cut and polished.

The Indian government has placed a ban on Zimbabwean diamonds.

The Indian Government’s Union Ministry of Commerce has moved to stop its country from importing controversial diamonds from Zimbabwe, amid growing pressure for international traders to shun stones from the country. Indian has asked jewellery exporters and traders to bide their time until a solution of Zimbabwe’s trade future is resolved. Currently Zimbabwe’s diamonds are still effectively barred from international trade, because the watchdog Kimberley Process (KP) is still to decide on whether to give Zimbabwean exports the green light.

The Indian government’s decision is a major setback to the country’s diamond conglomerate, the Surat Rough Diamond Sourcing India Limited (SRSDIL), which signed a deal amounting to US$1.2 billion per year, to import rough diamonds from Zimbabwe. Recent diamond auctions in Zimbabwe, the first since the country was barred from trade last year, saw a high number of Indian buyers. Zimbabwe was barred by the KP over human rights abuses at the Chiadzwa alluvial diamond fields, and the auctions earlier this year were part of efforts to bring the country in line with international standards. But the KP has not made a unanimous decision on Zimbabwe yet, because of ongoing reports of abuses at Chiadzwa.

The Mines Ministry has since threatened to sell its diamonds without KP approval and recently the KP appointed monitor to Zimbabwe, Abbey Chikane, unilaterally certified Chiadzwa stones for sale. As a result, another auction, featuring mainly Indian buyers, went ahead last month. The KP has since publicly dismissed Chikane’s efforts to certify the stones without approval, and has asked member state not accepted Zimbabwean diamonds.

The KP is still reportedly negotiating an agreement with the Mines Ministry, which continues to make it clear that it has no intention of adhering to the KP’s limits. Mines and Mining Development secretary Thankful Musukutwa reportedly told a visiting Norwegian delegation this week that trade would not be stopped by NGOs and “other hostile nations.” Musukutwa said that while Zimbabwe has had “a few problems” with the KP, “we have worked our way up and we are very compliant.”

A Kimberley Process meeting in Israel in November failed to allow the export of Zimbabwean diamonds until they become process-compliant.

Talks to break an international deadlock over Zimbabwe’s suspended diamond exports ended in Belgium last week without a deal as the market was awash with rumours that Harare was courting buyers for stones from its controversial fields to the east of the country.

Industry representatives failed to hammer a compromise deal after a special meeting of the Kimberley Process (KP)’s Working Group on Monitoring (WGM) ended in Brussels on Thursday with no consensus on whether to allow rough diamond exports from Zimbabwe.

The Brussels meeting followed a KP plenary session held earlier this month in Israel which nearly reached an agreement after direct consultations between the United States and Zimbabwe. The agreement was widely accepted by KP members but was blocked by Canada and Australia. The Tel Aviv meetings ended with a decision to continue negotiations until a unanimous agreement is reached.

Zimbabwe boycotted the WGM meeting although it was said to be liaising with the working group via a delegation from neighbouring countries. Harare has insisted that it would resume selling the gems “without any conditions”. Under a set of measures meant to bring Zimbabwe’s controversial diamond industry in line with KP standards, the world diamond industry must monitor production and sales of diamonds from Chiadzwa field where the army has been accused of rights abuses against civilians.

In a later cable of the 9th January, 2009, we see:

¶7. (C) While Gono’s access to diamonds may have been compromised, XXXXXXXXXXXX said that many diamonds are still being sold to foreign diamond buyers in Mutare and over the border in Mozambique by a mix of panners, police, and soldiers. In particular, Lebanese buyers have set up shop in large numbers in Mutare and typically pay for the diamonds with U.S. dollars. In order to operate safely, the Lebanese have formed profitable relationships with senior military and police officials in the region. Marginally more reputable buyers from Europe and other regions prefer to stay in Chimoio in Mozambique. Chimoio affords these buyers protection from Zimbabwean police and soldiers who commonly seize cash, diamonds, and vehicles from them in Mutare, but that safety is offset by higher diamond prices.

Ask where your diamond was cut and sourced before buying – don’t buy Israeli blood diamonds.

Related Links
Court asked to prevent Chiadzwa diamond exports
Zimbabwe Finance Minister Calls for Valuation of Diamond Deposits
Zimbabwe Govt Newspaper: Diamond Mining Company Contests Exclusion From Chiadzwa