Diamond authority blasts Zimbabwe

Associated Press / November 5, 2009

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JOHANNESBURG - Investigators for the world’s diamond control body say Zimbabwe should be suspended because its security forces are raping women, killing illegal miners, and smuggling gems out of a diamond field in the troubled country’s east.

Human rights groups have made similar accusations, but the charges carry particular weight coming from Kimberley Process investigators who visited Zimbabwe in June and July. Their recommendations are in a confidential report the Associated Press obtained yesterday.

Zimbabwean authorities have repeatedly denied such charges, including in statements to Kimberley Process investigators and officials. The investigators said that they found evidence contradicting the official account and that information provided by Zimbabwean authorities “was false, and likely intentionally so.’’

The report was presented to Kimberley Process Certification Scheme officials, who were expected to decide this week on what to do about the southern African country. Their investigators recommended that Zimbabwe either be suspended or voluntarily suspend itself until it has met minimum standards for remaining part of the process.

The Kimberley Process was established in 2002 in an attempt to stem the flow of “blood diamonds’’ - gems sold to fund fighting across Africa. Participants must certify the origins of the diamonds being traded. Suspension could result in buyers shunning Zimbabwe’s diamonds.

While the rough gems flowing from Zimbabwe’s Marange field do not fit the Kimberley definition of conflict diamonds, the investigators said the lawlessness in the area would make it easy for traffickers to bring in such gems from other countries and then export them as Zimbabwean.

The investigators interviewed witnesses, victims, and their survivors.