Global Diamond Industry Eyes Abuse in Zimbabwe

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Steve Chiotakis: In Israel today, members of the international diamond industry are meeting. They’re part of what’s known as the “Kimberley Process”. The group will be discussing whether to expel Zimbabwe, because human rights advocates say the country’s found a loophole in the crackdown on “conflict diamonds.” Reporter Gretchen Wilson has more from Johannesburg.

Gretchen Wilson: Zimbabwe’s government wants all of its diamonds certified as conflict-free. Because despite its political and economic problems, there’s no war going on in the country. The trick is the Kimberley Process was created to stop rebel groups from entering the diamond trade.

Tiseke Kasambala is with the advocacy group Human Rights Watch. She says the monitoring group hasn’t figured out what to do when it’s the governments themselves that are responsible for forced labor.

Tiseke Kasambala: They’re struggling to expand its mandate to deal with governments that extract these minerals by committing abuses against their own people.

When Zimbabwe’s government discovered the huge potential of diamond mining region four years ago, more than 30,000 locals rushed in. The government first brought in police to secure the area. Then the army.

Kasambala: They came in with guns, with helicopters and with dogs.

Some observers say if the Kimberley Process doesn’t take action against Zimbabwe, it will be a death blow to the body’s legitimacy, and will leave no international group to effectively monitor the world’s diamond industry.

In Johannesburg, I’m Gretchen Wilson for Marketplace.

All reporting by Gretchen L. Wilson, © 2010

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