Ban lifted on Zimbabwe diamond exports

Israel chairs Kimberly Process; targets Zimbabwe for reform.

July 20, 2010 22:10
2 minute read.
Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe. (photo credit: Associated Press)

The global control body for the prevention of trade in blood diamonds, chaired by Israel, has struck a compromise to break the deadlock over Zimbabwean exports.

“An agreement was of urgent necessity to avert a crisis,” Boaz Hirsch, who represents Israel as chairman of the Kimberley Process, said on Tuesday. “The past several months have been difficult, but they have clearly demonstrated that not only does the process have teeth, it also is able to achieve results.”

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According to the agreement reached at the World Diamond Congress in Moscow over the weekend, Zimbabwe will be able to carry out by September two supervised exports of rough diamonds from the Marange production in eastern Zimbabwe.

During this period, the Kimberley Process will send a review mission to the country, which will be held in conjunction with the first visit to the country by Abbey Chikane, a South African who has been appointed the Kimberley Process monitor to Zimbabwe.

Chikane will pay another visit to Zimbabwe on the week of September 6, to certify the second supervised export.

The Kimberley Process Monitoring Committee will formulate a position on future exports after receiving the review mission’s report.

After human rights groups documented violations and killings in the country’s diamond mines, the Kimberley Process last year sanctioned Zimbabwe for “significant noncompliance,” thus banning the sale of Marange diamonds to member states, but stopped short of expelling it. Instead it sent Chikane to the region, to examine the situation on the ground and make recommendations to the assembly on how to proceed.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report last year that its researchers had found evidence of forced labor, torture, beatings and harassment by troops in the Marange diamond field in eastern Zimbabwe, and had called for removing it from the process.

Since Israel took over the revolving chairmanship of the Kimberley Process in January, Zimbabwe has been the main focus at its plenary meetings.

At the intercessional conference in Tel Aviv last month, it failed to come to an agreement about whether Zimbabwe’s diamonds should be certified as conflict-free. At the next meeting, scheduled to take place in Israel in November, the effectiveness of the new compromise agreement and monitor reports will be reviewed with the aim of taking a decision on future exports.

The Kimberley Process is made up of three types of members: states, representatives of the diamond industry and human rights organizations.

These groups try to work together to ensure that consumers know that the diamonds they buy are not funding violence or causing grave human rights violations.

Traditionally, blood diamonds – also known as conflict diamonds – were diamonds that were mined by rebel movements to finance armed conflicts aimed at undermining legitimate governments.

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