Kimberley Process Decision on Zimbabwe Stirs Controversy

Earlier this year, a Human Rights Watch report said it had uncovered evidence of mass murder, rape, and other atrocities in the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe. Shortly after, a Kimberley Process monitoring mission visited Zimbabwe and found evidence of “noncompliance” with KP standards. According to leaked reports, members recommended the country be suspended.

Yet at the recent Kimberley Process Plenary, Zimbabwe was allowed to remain a KP member. Sources said the country’s South African neighbors blocked a full suspension.

Instead, Zimbabwe agreed to a “work plan,” negotiated in a grueling seven-hour session, to bring it into compliance with the KP. Among other conditions, the plan calls for no diamonds to be exported from Marange unless supervised by an independent Kimberley monitor.

The decision not to suspend Zimbabwe outraged human rights advocates, with a Human Rights Watch representative writing in the Los Angeles Times that consumers should question jewelers if their stones are from Zimbabwe.

And while representatives of nongovernmental organizations ultimately didn’t block the work plan at the plenary, Anne Dunnebacke, of NGO Global Witness, argued its monitoring provisions are inadequate. “There is only one person who is supposed to act as a Kimberley monitor [in the Marange fields],” she says. “If that person is given unlimited access, like it says, I suppose it could work, but one person can’t monitor much.”

However, the people who negotiated the work plan defended it. “Zimbabwe now has a lot to do,” said World Diamond Council’s Cecilia Gardner, who was part of the monitoring mission. “We learned a bit of a lesson from [self-suspended] Venezuela, which just walked away. For me, it was much more important to remain engaged. Zimbabwe is looking for help, and they kept saying how important the KP was to them.”

Another participant said, “I don’t think they are giving the [Zimbabwe representatives] a hero’s welcome back home. They gave in on a lot of things.”

There are certainly signals this will be Zimbabwe’s last chance. A U.S. State Department statement issued after the plenary said: “If the Work Plan is not thoroughly implemented, we expect the KP to suspend Zimbabwe’s status in the KP certification scheme.”

Some companies are even acting on their own. RapNet, Martin Rapaport’s online trading network, now makes members agree that they will not sell diamonds from Marange.