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news - Zimbabwe's Diamond Production Draws Scrutiny

september 14th, 2009

"A UN-backed international body charged with policing the diamond trade has ratcheted up scrutiny of alleged human-rights violations by Zimbabwe's army and police in connection with diamond production.

Zimbabwean diamonds make up a small percentage--about 0.4%--of the global diamond trade, according to an industry group, the World Diamond Council. So far this year, Zimbabwe has earned $20 million from the sale of diamonds, a fraction of the estimated $8.5 billion of diamonds produced each year by African countries, which account for more than half the global trade.

Suspension of Zimbabwe's diamond sales wouldn't have much impact on the global supply, but could threaten one of the country's few sources of hard currency.

An investigative team for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, a United Nations-backed body charged with policing conflict diamonds--stones mined amid violence, sold to fund conflict, or both--drafted a scathing report after a visit to Zimbabwe early this summer.

The team found evidence of killings and forced labor at diamond fields in the east of the country, among other human-rights violations, according to a copy of the final report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and confirmed by a Kimberley Process member. It recommended that Zimbabwe suspend itself from the Kimberley Process, or that the certification group vote to suspend the country's membership until the government addresses the problem. The report has been submitted to the Zimbabwean government, which has 30 days to respond.

Zimbabwe Home Affairs Minister Giles Mutsekwa, whose ministry is in charge of the police and law and order, said in a recent interview that reports of human-rights violations in the area were 'disturbing,' and that Zimbabwe was working 'extra hard to meet the Kimberley Process recommendations.' Mr. Mutsekwa's office couldn't be reached to comment on the final report."

MORE: "Zimbabwe's Diamond Production Draws Scrutiny" (WSJ)

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