Zimbabwe urged to improve standards in diamond mines

The controversy surrounding Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields could not be resolved at a conference of the UN-backed Kimberley Process (KP), which regulates the worldwide trade of conflict diamonds. Delegates at the recent KP meeting in Tel Aviv failed to reach a consensus on whether to allow Zimbabwe to resume exporting Marange diamonds.

The KP withdrew certification of the fields last November after its investigators documented forced labor, beatings and other abuses by the military against civilians working in the diamond fields.

Human rights groups have called for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the KP, saying it had not fulfilled its promise made last year to improve conditions at its Marange fields.

“The controversial Marange diamond fields have seen and continue to see quite a high level of human rights abuses and the militarization of mining,” Annie Dunnebacke, a campaigner at the non-governmental organization Global Witness, told Deutsche Welle. Global Witness focuses its work on natural-resource related conflicts.

A report by KP investigator Abbey Chikane presented at the Tel Aviv conference argued that President Robert Mugabe’s government had met the regulator’s criteria in respect to the Marange diamond fields.

But Human Rights Watch (HRW) has received new reports that soldiers are engaging in forced labor, torture, beatings and harassment in the Marange diamond fields around Chiadzwa, 300 kilometers (186 miles) east of the Zimbabwean capital Harare.

“It baffles us why Chikane would say exportation should go ahead because there’s still smuggling in the fields, and the army has not been removed,” said Tiseke Kasambala, senior researcher in HRW’s Africa division.

“We are still seeing forced labor, beatings and torture, and the sexual assault of women,” Kasambala told Deutsche Welle. “That is something that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency by the government of Zimbabwe and by the KP.”

Africa’s role

The European Union in a statement urged members of the certification scheme to put greater pressure on Zimbabwe to improve the situation of mine workers to meet the minimum standards set out by the KP.

It followed on the heels of a US appeal. Philip Crowley, a spokesman for the US State Department, said that Washington was “disappointed” that consensus was not reached in Tel Aviv.

“It is important that Zimbabwe address the ongoing diamond smuggling and human rights violations in and around the Marange diamond fields,” Crowley told reporters. Read more.

Source: Deutches Welle

Author: Sabina Casagrande
Editor:  Rob Mudge

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