UN watchdog lifts tight monitoring on Zim diamonds

Zimbabwe's diamond industry has been tarnished by allegations of human rights abuses since 2008 when Harare deployed security forces to drive away small-scale miners from the Marange fields.

Rights activists said 200 miners were killed in the operation, and the country was suspended from the so-called 80-member Kimberley Process (KP), which certifies global sales of "conflict-free diamonds."

In 2011, Zimbabwe was allowed to start selling diamonds from the Marange mines again but under a strict monitoring process imposed for a year by the global watchdog, set up to combat "blood diamonds."

"Over the course of that year, Zimbabwe put in a significant good faith effort. It did, in the opinion of the monitors who went on repeated occasions to Zimbabwe… achieve most of the things that they needed to achieve, and in some cases did better than what one might have hoped," said Gillian Milovanovic, the body's current chairperson.

Conflict diamonds
"Based on the monitors' evaluations… it was determined that in fact Zimbabwe had complied with that which was expected of it," she told journalists at the end of a four-day meeting in Washington.

"So the sunset clause entered into effect, and the special monitoring regime is no longer in effect."

But the decision is likely to anger rights groups and non-governmental organisations, which are also part of KP and which have been arguing in vain for a broader definition of the term "conflict diamond."

Earlier this month, the non-governmental organisation Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) said a network of ministers and military officials had siphoned about $2-billion worth of diamonds out of Zimbabwe in the past four years.

"We continue to have concerns about… revenue transparency related to diamond revenues" in Zimbabwe, PAC's director of research Alan Martin told the press conference in Washington. – Sapa-AFP

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