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Diamond monitoring body urged to suspend Zimbabwe over rights abuse allegations

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday called for the removal of Zimbabwe [report materials; press release] from the Kimberley Process (KP) [official website], the global organization dedicated to suppressing trade in so-called "conflict diamonds." The report, "Deliberative Chaos," calls on the KP to suspend Zimbabwe at its meeting in Israel June 21. According to the report, human rights abuses by the Zimbabwean government have persisted since the discovery of diamonds in the Marange fields. The military continues to control a majority of the fields and has forced Marange villagers to mine them, perpetrating several human rights abuses, such as harassment, torture, beatings and the planned relocation of more than 4,000 families to expand the mining operations, according to HRW. Additionally, HRW has accused officials from the ruling ZANU-PF party of smuggling diamonds for personal and party benefit and has criticized the findings of the KP investigator to the region, who has recommended that Marange diamonds be certified as "conflict-free." In calling for Zimbabwe's suspension from the oversight body, HRW explained that the KP "risk[ed] becoming irrelevant" if it failed to address this problem.

Zimbabwean human rights activist Farai Maguwu was arrested [JURIST report] earlier this month for allegedly supplying false information about Zimbabwe's controversial diamond mining practices to the KP. An investigation was launched against Maguwu after he allegedly leaked to the KP a document compiled by the police [SW Radio Africa report] for the Joint Operations Command (JOC), a military-run security agency that was thought to be defunct. The report allegedly confirms allegations recently made by human rights organizations that Zimbabwe is continuing to engage in illegal diamond mining with the use of military force and leads non-governmental organizations to believe that the JOC is being subversively employed by the government. Civil society groups such as Global Witness, Partnership Africa Canada and Green Advocates [advocacy websites], have called for the suspension of Zimbabwe's international diamond trade due to the human rights violations [Telegraph report] allegedly committed by the Zimbabwean army against civilians and illegal workers in the Marange diamond fields. During the summer of 2009, KP appointed a team to conduct a Review Mission [press release, PDF] in Zimbabwe. They suggested that Zimbabwe's membership to the organization be revoked [Times Live report] for at least six months while the KP could ascertain that minimum standards were being met. Illicit trade in rough diamonds has been closely linked to armed conflict [UN backgrounder] in Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone. Since its inception in 2003, the KP has operated [DF backgrounder] by endeavoring to require its members to follow the regulations set forth by the KPCS, and in turn certifies their shipments of rough diamonds as "conflict-free."

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