Suspend Zim diamonds - HRW

2009-10-29 21:22

Johannesburg - Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged the Kimberley Process, the global diamond trade monitor, to suspend Zimbabwe because of abuses and smuggling in its Marange diamond fields.

Investigators from the Kimberley Process visited Zimbabwe in July and recommended the suspension of sales of Marange diamonds, citing "horrific" violence against civilians by the army.

"The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme... should immediately suspend Zimbabwe," the US-based rights group said.

"Zimbabwe has had more than enough time to put a halt to the human rights abuses and smuggling at Marange," said Georgette Gagnon, Human Rights Watch for Africa.

"Instead, it has sent more troops to the area, apparently trying to put a halt to independent access and scrutiny," the organisation said in a statement.

Mainstream market

The rights body has recently concluded its own investigation in Marange, which found the army uses syndicates of local miners to extract diamonds, often with forced labour, including children.

It also found that smuggling of Marange diamonds had intensified, with buyers and middlemen openly trading the gems in the small Mozambique town of Vila de Manica, 30 kilometres from Mutare.

The Kimberley Process was launched in 2003 to curb the flow of conflict diamonds into the mainstream market, following wars in countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone.