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Rights groups: Suspend Zim diamond sales

The Kimberley Process should suspend Zimbabwe when the global diamond regulator meets next week, rights groups said on Friday, a move that would bar the country’s exports of the gems.

The watchdog set up to prevent trade in “blood diamonds” meets on Monday in Tel Aviv, with rights abuses in Zimbabwe topping the agenda.

A Kimberley-appointed monitor has said that Zimbabwe has met minimum rights standards in its Marange diamond fields, where the regulator last year documented forced labour and other abuses against civilians by the military.

Zimbabwean activist Farai Maguwu, who helped document the abuses, was jailed two weeks ago for giving documents to the monitor, preventing him from attending the meeting.

“Farai Maguwu’s arrest, and continued detention, is a blatant attempt by the Zimbabwean authorities to silence any dissent from the diamond fields,” said Elly Harrowell, campaigner at Global Witness.

“The government of Zimbabwe should immediately release him and stop persecuting individuals and organisations that report on human rights abuses.”

The meeting in Israel should “suspend Zimbabwe from the Kimberley Process until there is evidence that human rights abuses in the diamond fields have ceased and Zimbabwe is complying fully with Kimberley Process minimum requirements,” Global Witness and other rights groups said in a statement.

“The credibility and viability of the monitor, and the monitoring arrangement in Zimbabwe have been compromised,” said Bernard Taylor, executive director of Partnership Africa Canada.

“Maguwu’s arrest is directly related to the fact that he has provided the Kimberley Process with valuable information about events in Marange.” – AFP

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