Rights groups protest lift on Zimbabwe diamond ban

24th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Civil society groups said Friday they walked out of a Kimberley Process meeting in a show of no confidence in the regulator after it lifted a ban on Zimbabwe diamonds.

Mathieu Yamba of the Democratic Republic of Congo, current chairman of the global "blood diamonds" monitor, late Thursday said sales would be allowed from two mines in the Marange region, where investigators found gross human rights abuses in 2009.

A team of two monitors still must visit the mines to sign off on the sale, he said.

But civil society groups in the Kimberley Process slammed the decision, saying human rights abuses have not been addressed.

"We represent communities that have suffered from diamond-fuelled violence, and communities that hope to benefit from diamond wealth," said Aminata Kelly-Lamin from the Network Movement for Justice and Development in Sierra Leone.

"We can no longer go back to these people, look them in the eye and tell them that the scheme is working to protect their interests, when it is not," she said.

In a joint statement, the organisations said Kimberley's deal with Zimbabwe fell short of what is needed to protect civilians living and working in Marange.

"Marange has been the scene of very serious human rights violations over the past three years. Yet the deal tabled did not credibly address the question of how to protect local NGOs monitoring and reporting to the KP on conditions in the area," said Alfred Brownell from Green Advocates, Liberia.

"Any new agreement that the KP signs up to regarding Marange diamonds must address directly key issues such as the involvement of soldiers in diamond mining, rampant smuggling and beatings by security forces," he said.

The Marange fields, touted as Africa's richest diamond find of the decade, have been at the centre of a years-long controversy over abuses by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's military.

The suspension of sales from Marange has done little to stem the flow of smuggled diamonds across the nearby border with Mozambique and then to overseas markets.

© 2011 AFP

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