Diamond magnate goes on hunger strike

Martin Rapaport wishes to challenge "blood diamond" certification via Kimberley Process.

By RON FRIEDMAN
June 23, 2010 05:52
3 minute read.
The Jerusalem Post

Diamonds 311. (photo credit: Bloomberg)

Midway into his third day on a hunger strike diamond business magnate Martin Rapaport said he’s still feeling good and is full of energy, and appears to be more rearing than ever to take on the entire world diamond industry. Sitting outside the doors of the inter-sessional meeting of the Kimberley Process (KP) in Tel Aviv and subsisting on water alone, Rapaport is calling on the diamond industry to stop using the KP as a fig leaf for human rights abuses and take responsibility for the blood diamonds they are marketing.

Rapaport, who owns many businesses relating to the diamond industry, including the Rapaport Prices List and the RapNet electronic trading network, was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the KP certification scheme, which alerts consumers to the origin of the gems they purchase. Today he claims it is no longer serving its purpose and is actually causing harm by granting legitimacy for diamonds produced by the death and suffering of human beings.

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“The Kimberley Process is aiding and abetting severe human rights violations as it certifies, legalizes and legitimizes blood diamonds. Corrupt governments have turned the KP on its head. Instead of eliminating human rights violations the KP is legitimizing them,” said Rapaport. “If the Diamond industry is like a kosher restaurant, the Kimberley Process is the rabbi making sure that all the food that’s served is kosher. Here we have a kosher restaurant selling ham sandwiches.”

When the UN launched the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in 2002, it was meant to certify the origins of rough gems and to block sale of gems used to finance rebel organizations in conflict zones, in places like Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire. But with trade in conflict diamonds mostly eradicated, largely due to the KP certification scheme, participants are now trying to use the process to tackle other human rights violations in the diamond industry, particularly in Zimbabwe, where there are reports of large-scale state-sanctioned murder, torture, rape and enslavement taking place in the state-owned Marange diamond mines.

Rapaport explained that trying to use to KP to tackle human rights violations was ineffectual because it is the wrong tool for the job. He said that the KP was created “by governments for governments” and that the definition of conflict diamonds specifically talks about rebel movements use diamonds to fund wars against legitimate states and that the KP was not equipped to deal with human rights violations conducted by sovereign states, like Zimbabwe.

“The diamond trade and consumers cannot trust the Kimberley Process, its system of warranties, or those that promote the Kimberley Process as an assurance of the legitimate source of diamonds. We must face the fact that the Kimberley Process is a politicized government-controlled initiative that is incapable of eliminating human rights violations in the diamond sector,” said Rapaport.


Rapaport said that by trying and failing to bend the purposes of the KP to tackle more general human rights violations, its well-intentioned participants were in effect providing cover for continued violations. “It’s time for the World Diamond Council and responsible NGO’s to withdraw from the KP,” said Rapaport. “The sovereignty of nations will not allow nations to put human rights into the KP. It’s never going to happen. So instead of the industry and the NGO’s relating to the issue of human rights blood diamonds, they end up playing around with the KP. It’s in the way,” he said.

The solution, according to Rapaport, is the formation of a new certification scheme that tackles both conflict diamonds and blood diamonds, and can ensure consumers that the stones they purchase are 100% “kosher.” He said he was considering partnering with others to produce such a scheme, but that for now he was just there to alert the world that though they believe that they are buying turkey, they may actually be eating ham.


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