Shine coming off diamond trade regulation

The vicious civil wars that raged in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo around the turn of the 20th century had a common theme: they were largely fuelled by the illegal trade in diamonds.

A UN resolution in December 2000 launched the Kimberley process certification scheme (KPCS) to combat the sale of conflict or “blood” diamonds.

The regulatory safeguards — involving governments, civil society and industry giants such as De Beers — came into effect in 2003 and are claimed to have reduced conflict diamonds from 15% to a fraction of 1% of international trade.

But last week seven campaign groups issued a joint statement warning that “the KPCS is failing to address effectively issues of non-compliance, smuggling, money laundering and human rights abuses in the world’s alluvial diamond fields”. Ian Smillie, the leading architect of the KPCS, has resigned. “It isn’t regulating the rough diamond trade,” he told the Independent this week. “It is in danger of becoming irrelevant and it’s letting all manner of crooks off the hook.”

Members of the KPCS have been meeting in Namibia this week to discuss concerns over the trade of illegal gems in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Venezuela and Lebanon. An inspection team is due to visit the Marange diamonds fields in eastern Zimbabwe next week. Smillie said: “They are blood diamonds, they have blood all over them.”

Human Rights Watch has called on the KPCS to suspend Zimbabwe because of human rights abuses in Marange and the country’s lack of effective official oversight of its diamond industry. It said the KPCS should broaden the definition of “conflict diamonds” to include those mined in the context of serious and systematic human rights abuses. –

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