Friday, November 26, 2010

Swiss Church Group criticizes certification of Zimbabwean diamonds

Bread for All criticizes the certification of Zimbabwean diamonds

Lausanne, 25 November 2010 Press Communiqué

Numerous human rights violations are being committed in Zimbabwe’s diamond mines by state security forces. Bread for All (Switzerland) is calling on the Government of Switzerland, as a member of the Kimberley Process, to demand the exclusion of Zimbabwean diamonds from the Kimberly Process (KP) which certifies diamonds for international trade. The Swiss Government must also call on the Kimberley Process to broaden the definition of blood diamonds to include diamonds originating from areas where human rights violations are committed by government forces.

Zimbabwe is one of the world’s biggest producers of rough diamonds. Marange district, eastern Zimbabwe, experienced a diamond rush in 2006 with the invasion of more than 30 000 illegal miners. The Geneva-based Zimbabwe Advocacy Office, a partner of Bread for All, reports that several human rights violations have been committed in Zimbabwe’s diamond mines by state security forces.

In October 2008, the Government of Zimbabwe deployed its army in order to control the region. During the military operation more that 200 miners and villagers were killed according to a Human Rights Watch report.[1] Since the military’s installation around the diamond fields, human rights are being committed frequently, notably, forced labour, child labour, torture, beatings and abductions. In addition, soldiers are reportedly forcing miners to work for them and smuggle diamonds.

Certification despite human rights violations

Zimbabwe is a member of the Kimberley Process, an organization that brings together governments, businesses, and civil society with the goal of regulating international trade in diamonds in order to combat “blood diamonds”, that is to say diamonds that serve to finance wars of rebel groups against governments. In November 2009, the KP suspended sale of Marange diamonds. In July 2010, after two missions of enquiry, the KP adjudged that Zimbabwe had met “the minimum criteria of the certification process for selling its uncut diamonds”, since diamond sales do not finance rebel groups. Zimbabwe was therefore authorized to hold a first diamond auction to international buyers in August 2010. Rapaport, a leading diamond brokerage company based in the US, immediately announced that it would not purchase Marange diamonds due to their connection with serious human rights violations.

Strict certification criteria is necessary

Currently the production of diamonds is not going towards national development as the diamond trade is being controlled by an army under the heel of President Mugabe. This situation is all the more alarming in that Zimbabwe suffers from widespread hunger and a severe economic crisis.

Bread for All therefore makes the following recommendations:

To the Government of Switzerland:

As a member of the Kimberley Process, Switzerland should request that Zimbabwean diamonds be excluded from KP Certification Scheme.
The Swiss Government should ask the KP to include in its criteria for ‘blood diamonds’, the human rights violations committed by the government forces (not only by the rebel groups).

To the Diamond Sector:

Refuse transactions on Zimbabwean diamonds, as long as the human rights situation does not improve.

To Swiss Consumers:
Make enquiries with jewelers on origin of the diamonds and refuse to buy those originating from Zimbabwe.

For more information:
Yvan Maillard Ardenti
Programme Officer, Finance and Corruption
Phone: 031 380 65 73 or 079 267 0109

[1] Human Rights Watch, ‘Deliberate Chaos, Ongoing Human Rights Abuses in the Marange Diamond Fields of Zimbabwe’, New York, June 2010

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