Watchdog to broaden 'blood diamond' ban

2012-06-08 13:02
Washington - Blood diamonds were once the scourge of African nations used to fund years of brutal civil wars. Now, a UN-mandated watchdog aims to stop gem greed from fuelling more violence in trouble spots.

About 10 years after the Kimberley Process (KP), representing 76 countries, was set up to quell the trade in "conflict diamonds", the group is looking to broaden its scope and stop any trade in gems tainted by systemic violence.

After a four-day meeting in Washington of the group which also brings together the diamond industry and NGOs, chairperson Gillian Milovanovic said the United States was proposing a new definition of what is a conflict diamond.

Currently the group seeks to staunch the flow of rough diamonds used by rebel movements to fund wars against legitimate governments by a tough regulation process, and certifying that gems have been legally mined and sold.

If agreed the organisation's certification scheme would be modified to cover "rough diamonds used to finance, or otherwise directly related to, armed conflict or other situations of violence", she said on Thursday.

Milovanovic told a press conference that the new language "would expand the definition of conflict beyond something which involves rebel groups seeking to overthrow a legitimate government".

Notorious case

An estimated $13bn in diamonds are mined every year, about 65%, or about $8.5bn, of which come from African nations, according to the World Diamond Council.

Since the Kimberley Process was launched in 2003 to address global concern, sales in "blood diamonds" have fallen to 1% of international trade compared with estimates of up to 15% in the 1990s.

In one of the most notorious cases, former Liberian president Charles Taylor was accused by an international court of being paid in diamonds worth millions by Sierra Leone rebels - some stuffed into mayonnaise jars.

In exchange, Taylor handed over weapons and ammunition to the rebels helping fuel a decade-long civil war which cost 125 000 lives and recruited thousands of child soldiers.

But human rights groups have become increasingly concerned that the current definition of a "blood diamond" is too narrow, and that some nations - in particular Zimbabwe - are being allowed to legally export diamonds despite reports of killings and abuse at its mines.

The issue came to a head in December, when one of KP's founders, the activist group Global Witness, quit angered by the continued and controversial sale of diamonds from the Marange mines in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe in the spotlight

Human rights groups maintain that about 200 miners were killed in a 2008 army operation to clear small-scale miners from the area.

Zimbabwe was also in the spotlight here after two top officials who are under economic sanctions - Mines Minister Obert Mpofu and Attorney General Johannes Tomana - were allowed to participate in the Washington talks.

"Their participation is in no way indicative of an easing of US concerns about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, nor is it a change in our sanctions policy," Deputy State Department spokesperson, Mark Toner, said.

But activists, and even the leaders of the Kimberley Process, say the organisation is now in need of reform.

"The KP can no longer shut its eyes to the way in which the world and the diamond-related violence has changed over the last decade," said Bernard Taylor, from the non-government organisation Partnership Africa-Canada.

The organisation had "to find a definition that can respond to organised and systemic violence in diamond producing and trading zones, irrespective of whether the perpetrator is a rebel group, state actors or private security companies", he added.

Reluctance


Eli Izhakoff, president of the World Diamond Council, told reporters: "The industry and the NGOs have agreed on human rights language. We have agreed a discussion should open regarding the definition of conflict diamonds."

But participants confirmed to AFP there was still some reluctance on the part of mainly African nations to modify the definition.

South African representative Thibedi Ramontja said: "The whole issue about whether we should change the definition of conflict diamond is the view of some participants... We have to debate those issues until a consensus is reached."

South Africa will take over as chair of the Kimberley Process from January 2013, and it is hoped the new definition will be voted on and approved by the next full session of the group in Washington in November.

Read more on:    un  |  obert mpofu  |  charles taylor  |  liberia  |  zimbabwe  |  sierra leone  |  southern africa  |  blood diamonds  |  west africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

The craziest deaths of 2014
How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!
This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!
This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be emotionally defensive or reserved today. You need to step up today as there may be extra responsibilities to deal with....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.