Thursday, 11 August 2011

Zimbabwe's Blood Diamonds

Photo Courtesy of USGS
At the end of June I wrote about troubles in the Kimberley Process - after a controversial decision was made to allow Zimbabwe to sell diamonds from the Marange field, despite concern that money from these sales would be used to fund violence and human rights abuses. It was deeply troubling, therefore, to see the BBC Panorama programme (available here for the next 12 months) interviewing witnesses who stated that there had been massacres to clear the diamond fields for the military. They also described torture camps where civilians caught mining independently (and others working on the military mines) were beaten, raped and tortured. While these reports are strongly denied by the Zimbabwean government these gravest of allegations must be thoroughly investigated before any Zimbabwean diamonds are allowed to access the world market.

The International Response

The EU initially refused to accept the decision made by the Kimberley Process earlier this year to allow exports of diamonds from two mines. It has since changed its mind, and now backs this partial lifting of the ban, while maintaining that bans should still be in place on the other mines. According to a statement made by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office they are in agreement with this controversial decision. While understanding that experts have assessed the two mines in question and deemed that they meet international standards, if the allegations made by Panorama are true then this calls the decision made by the Kimberley Process into question.

OUR POSITION: The income from the sustainable extraction and export of minerals, precious metals and precious stones can bring tremendous benefit to communities in poverty. There is significant doubt that the income from diamonds in the Marange field will contribute to the sustainable economic and social development of Zimbabwe. If the allegations made by Panorama are true then there must be an immediate end to all diamond exports from this nation, a strengthening of political sanctions and an investigation of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, with arrest warrants issued if necessary.

We would strongly urge the UK Government and European Union to push for a complete ban on all diamond exports from the Marange region until a thorough and independent investigation of these allegations has been made.

If you are a UK citizen we would also invite you to write to your MP to ask them to lobby the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office on this issue. Simply outline your concerns and ask them to push for a complete ban and a thorough investigation. If you are a citizen of another country, we would urge you to contact your appropriate Government representative.