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Monday, December 6, 2010

Swiss Development Group Calls for Countrywide Ban in Zimbabwe Diamonds

The Marange diamond field  Photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP

A Swiss international development organization has urged its government to ban trade in diamonds from Zimbabwe's controversial Marange field because of continued reports of human rights violations, according to the Ecumenical News International.

Bread For All, the Development Service of the Protestant Churches in Switzerland, said the diamonds should not have a market in Switzerland based on reports of ongoing human rights abuses by its local partner, the Zimbabwe Advocacy Office.

Marlon Zakeyo, who heads the Zimbabwe Advocacy Office in Geneva, told ENI, that the ban in Switzerland is important because the country is a center for jewelry and watches, it is known for protecting human rights and it is a partner of the Kimberly Process, which is charged with preventing trade in “blood” of “conflict” diamonds—terms used to describe diamonds mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, invading army's war efforts, or a warlord's activity.

In addition, the two organizations said the definition of the terms “blood” or “conflict” diamonds should be updated by the KP to include human rights violations by forces of the state. The groups say the present definition refers to rebel forces, a loophole that had allowed the Zimbabwean government to sell Marange diamonds internationally under Kimberley Process supervision.

If Switzerland agrees to ban the diamonds, it will be the first country to do so. However, they will join a growing list of diamond dealers and jewelry industry officials who will not buy diamonds from Zimbabwe, most notably the Rapaport Diamond Trading Network (RapNet), U.K. jewelry company MasterCut, and the Company of Masters Jewellers, the U.K. retail organization that is the exclusive buyer of MasterCut diamonds.

Beginning in 2008, the Zimbabwe army took over the Marange fields forcing out tens of thousands of small-scale miners. These miners were massacred by soldiers and villagers have been beaten, raped and forced to work as virtual slaves. The human rights abuses led to Zimbabwe being suspended from the KP.

The KP voted to temporarily reinstate Zimbabwe in July, allowing two supervised exports of rough diamond from the Marange production held in August and September. However, the KP in November failed to reach an agreement on whether Zimbabwe will be able to sell diamonds through the organization’s certification scheme, a system that tracks diamond sales from the mine to the market, which has led to a ban diamonds from the Marange field.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean Mines Minister Obert Mpofu has threatened to sell diamonds without Kimberley approval, saying Zimbabwe has met all of its requirements.

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