/ 5 December 2011

Kimberley Process left in the lurch over diamond dispute

Global Witness, one of the founding members of the Kimberley Process, on Monday announced it has left the diamond certification body.

The government-led process regulates the trade of diamonds to prevent blood diamonds from being mixed with clean stones.

“Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes” said Charmian Gooch, a founding director of Global Witness.

“The scheme has failed three tests: it failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire, was unwilling to take serious action in the face of blatant breaches of the rules over a number of years by Venezuela and has proved unwilling to stop diamonds fuelling corruption and violence in Zimbabwe. It has become an accomplice to diamond laundering — whereby dirty diamonds are mixed in with clean gems.”

The watchdog approved the resumption of sales of Zimbabwe’s controversial Marange diamonds in November this year — after reports of alleged rights abuses in the area. Reports said Zimbabwe’s military had taken control of the Marange area and killed about 200 people, which the government denied. There had also been reports that people accused of committing acts of violence against those not in support of Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF have been benefiting from side-line diamond revenues.

“Over the last decade, elections in Zimbabwe have been associated with the brutal intimidation of voters. Orchestrating this kind of violence costs a lot of money. As the country approaches another election there is a very high risk of Zanu-PF hardliners employing these tactics once more and using Marange diamonds to foot the bill. The Kimberley Process’s refusal to confront this reality is an outrage,” said Gooch.

“Consumers should not buy Marange diamonds, and industry should not supply them,” said Gooch. “All existing contracts in the Marange fields should be cancelled and retendered with terms of reference which reflect international best practice on revenue sharing, transparency, oversight by and protection of the affected communities.”

Global Witness said the diamond industry should be required to demonstrate that the diamonds comply with international standards on minerals supply chain controls, including independent third party audits and regular public disclosure.

“Consumers have a right to know what they’re buying, and what was done to obtain it,” added Gooch. “The diamond industry must finally take responsibility for its supply chains and prove that the stones it sells are clean.”