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Zimbabwe's Disregard for Human Rights Troubles Nongovernmental Organizations

Jun 24, 2010 2:45 PM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT... The lack of consensus among Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) members on a decision about whether or not Zimbabwe could resume diamond exports from the Marange was actually welcomed by civil society members.

“There are no winners with this result. But by maintaining a ban on exports in the absence of significant improvements in Marange, the Kimberley Process (KP) has taken an important step toward restoring its battered credibility,” said Elly Harrowell from Global Witness. “If Zimbabwe follows through on its threat to export diamonds from Marange regardless of the lack of consensus, members, including the diamond industry, will need to think hard about how they will respond and what action they can take to stop these diamonds from contaminating the international trade.”

A Joint Work Plan (JWT) was agreed upon in November by both the KP and the government of Zimbabwe, with the plan being intended to bring that nation's rough diamonds in line with the KPCS’s minimum requirements.

"Almost no progress has been made on key aspects of this plan, including smuggling and demilitarization of the diamond fields," according to a joint statement released by civil society members. "Despite this, a number of governments supported a resumption of exports at this week’s meeting."

Global Witness described Zimbabwe's authorities as having demonstrated "a worrying lack of respect" about partnering with KP members. The country's minister of mines, Obert Mpofu, in particular, openly "denigrated the role of civil society organizations in the process" during the Tel Aviv meeting, according to the nongovernmental organization (NGO). 

Shortly before the meeting in Tel Aviv, the director of the NGO Centre for Research and Development (CRD) in Zimbabwe, Farai Maguwu, was arrested and detained. As part of the civil society group, Maguwu had been researching and exposing "state-sponsored violence and military involvement in mining and smuggling in the fields," the groups stated. He remains in detention.

Alan Martin from Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) noted, “We continue to be troubled by the Zimbabwean authorities’ aggressive attitude toward human rights campaigners and its disregard for the rules of the KP. We would welcome the opportunity to work with Zimbabwe, in the collaborative spirit of the scheme, to address challenges in the country’s diamond sector.”

The coalition of civil society groups is now calling on Zimbabwe to  work constructively and openly with all members of the KP to bring the Marange diamond fields into compliance with KPCS's minimum requirements. They also repeated their call for the immediate and unconditional release of  Maguwu.

Civil society concluded that the focus on Zimbabwe eclipsed the positive initiatives offered out of Tel Aviv this week, including a workshop on future improvements to the KP and an enforcement seminar that brought together Customs and police representatives from around the world to discuss stronger implementation of the scheme.

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Tags: Compliance, Government, Jeff Miller, Kimberley Process, NGO, Zimbabwe
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