Zimbabwe Shuns Kimberley Process Diamond Restrictions

Posted June 22nd, 2011 at 2:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Zimbabwe's mining minister says he will no longer discuss whether his country can sell its diamonds, as international meetings on conflict diamonds continue this week.

Mines Minister Obert Mpofu told VOA Zimbabwe has fully complied with international requests to improve its human rights conditions at the Marange diamond fields. He says Zimbabwe will resist attempts to impose special monitoring on its diamond fields and says Zimbabwe has already resumed selling the gemstones.

Meetings are underway in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as part of the Kimberley Process diamond certification program, which monitors and oversees the diamond trade.

Representatives from some African countries, India, and China have supported Zimbabwe's call to resume unrestricted diamond exports. However, some officials expressed embarrassment after mines minister Mpofu delivered an incendiary speech during Wednesday's session.

Human rights groups and representatives from Europe and the United States say Zimbabwe must submit to supervision, if it is allowed to export the diamonds at all.

The Kimberley Process began restricting exports of Zimbabwe's diamonds in 2009 amid accusations of major human rights violations at the Marange diamond fields.

Watchdog groups say illegal diamonds from Marange are being smuggled through Mozambique and South Africa, and that abuses continue.

The Kimberley Process has had difficulty regulating human rights abuses at diamond fields under government control. The global body was initially set up to stop rebels from selling diamonds to buy weapons used in conflicts.

Zimbabwe's military seized the diamond fields in late 2008, forcing out out tens of thousands of small-scale farmers, and, human rights groups say, killing nearly 200 people. Rights groups say the soldiers beat and tortured villagers, some of them children, and used them as forced labor.

Zimbabwe is believed to hold up to 25 percent of the world's diamonds. The country hopes the sale of the valuable gems will help revive its struggling economy.