Zim 'blood diamonds' worth $160m for sale
Harare - Zimbabwean rough diamonds worth about $160m, which had been confiscated in the United Arab Emirates, have been released for sale, the minister for mines confirmed on Monday.
The move has sparked concerns that the Kimberley Process - the international group formed to clamp down on trade in diamonds used to fund conflicts - might collapse.
Confirming a report in The Herald newspaper about the release of the diamonds, Zimbabwean Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said: "We still have hurdles to jump before it is a smooth sailing. We notice that it has not sunk [in] to America that it lost its efforts to have our diamonds off the world market."
The diamonds were mined from the Marange fields, but confiscated in November in Dubai. Last week, Mpofu said the Kimberley Process lifted the trade embargo at a meeting in Kinshasa in spite of objections from the United States, European Union, Israel and Canada.
Diamond exports from Marange have been suspended since June 2009 because of alleged police and military abuses in the fields, including killings, beatings, forced labour and smuggling. Zimbabwe promised a phased withdrawal of armed forces and to allow a monitor to examine and certify all diamond shipments from Marange.
But human rights groups say Zimbabwe failed to stop the abuses and has not complied with process rules.
The US State Department said last week that, contrary to some reports, there was no consensus reached at the Kinshasa meeting. It was referring to a press release by Kimberly Process chairman Mathieu Yamba that the group had unanimously agreed to lift Zimbabwe's diamond trade ban.
"We believe that work toward a solution must continue, and that until consensus is reached, exports from Marange should not proceed," said State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.
The Marange diamonds are said to be in India now, according to a report by Idex, an online diamond exchange.
"Miners, retailers, and consumers have relied on the Kimberley Process to stop blood diamonds from being sold, but, with Chairperson Yamba's decision, the KP has betrayed their trust," said Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch.
"Governments and companies should ignore his decision unless they want to make blood diamonds available to consumers and ruin the credibility of the Kimberly Process as well."