US gem trade group bans Zim diamonds
Johannesburg - A major gem trading group on Monday banned the sale of diamonds from Zimbabwe's Marange mines, saying the watchdog Kimberley Process could not guarantee they were not "blood diamonds".
The US-based Rapaport Group, one of the world's largest gem trading networks, said it would expel any traders who knowingly sold diamonds from Marange, despite a decision by the UN-sanctioned Kimberley Process to allow Zimbabwe to proceed with an auction of some of the diamonds last week.
"(We) will not tolerate the use of our trading networks for the distribution of diamonds involved in human rights violations," said a statement from chairperson Martin Rapaport.
"RapNet, the Rapaport Diamond Trading Network, will not allow the trading of any diamonds sourced from Marange, Zimbabwe. Members found to have knowingly offered Marange diamonds for sale on RapNet will be expelled and their names will be publicly communicated."
The Zimbabwean military seized control of the Marange fields in late 2008, forcing out tens of thousands of small-scale miners and killing about 200, according to human rights groups.
Soldiers then beat and raped villagers to force them to mine the gems in early 2009, the groups say.
Kimberley Process monitors last month ruled that abuses at Marange had stopped and allowed cash-starved Zimbabwe to hold an auction for stones mined during the last two months.
But Rapaport, an industry firebrand which has sharply criticised the Kimberley Process, said the watchdog group could not guarantee the mining of the stones was free of violence.
"There is no assurance that diamonds with (Kimberley Process) certification are free of human rights violations," he said.