New Internationalist

Kimberley Process ‘whitewashes’ blood diamonds

April 2012

Aoife Allen describes how The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is not doing enough to clean up the gems trade.

An item from the Agenda section of the magazine, where we look beyond the news curve with reports and comment on breaking stories.

When campaigners exposed the role of ‘blood diamonds’ in the Angolan and West African civil wars, images of gun-toting child soldiers were splashed across the world’s press. Following intense negotiations, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP) was launched in 2003 to clean up the trade in rough gems.

Despite being an unlikely coalition of justice-seekers, governments and the secretive diamond industry, the Process had some early successes. But it was plunged into crisis late last year when co-founding campaign group Global Witness walked out.

Robin Hammond/ Panos
Dirty work: a digger at the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe. Robin Hammond/ Panos

‘The Kimberley Process perpetuates a myth that the only problem with diamonds internationally was rebel wars of the kind fought in Sierra Leone, and that the problem has been effectively dealt with,’ says Mike Davis of Global Witness. He believes that there are serious links between the diamond trade today and state violence, but that rather than tackling the problem, the Process is ‘whitewashing’ it.

Global Witness left the scheme following a decision to allow Zimbabwe to resume exports of gems mined in the Marange diamond fields after a two-year suspension. Zimbabwean troops have controlled the fields since 2008, when hundreds of miners were killed in the takeover, and reports continue of human rights abuses and smuggling.

Meanwhile, the application of Panama – a non-producing country – for KP membership suggests that diamonds are being smuggled there from neighbouring Venezuela.

‘Usually when we get applications from countries that are not diamond producing it’s because they are conduits for trafficking and they want to legitimize the illegitimate,’ explains Alan Martin of Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), a member of the KP. ‘Venezuelan diamonds have been entering the legal market and making a mockery of the KP and the system of warranties upon which the industry relies.’

Martin and his colleagues will stay in the Process provided reform, led by the US as Chair for 2012, is forthcoming. But he says that campaigners will not be a ‘fig leaf’ to industry or to governments that want to hold up the Process as proof that diamonds are conflict-free.

They are pushing for a broader definition of conflict diamonds, and for cut and polished gems to be drawn into the certification scheme. And they are urging shoppers to quiz retailers on the origins of gems.

Industry representative Eli Izhakoff takes a different view. ‘I think that people can feel very safe about buying diamonds,’ he says. ‘They are buying with the permission and approval of 75 countries and I don’t think that you can get a better deal than that.’

He says that the industry is open to reform and hopes that Global Witness will be convinced to return, so that ‘the family will be complete again’. Whether the Kimberley Process was ever a harmonious family is questionable. And, unless real reform is pushed through in 2012, it might not make it to its 10th anniversary.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 451 This feature was published in the April 2012 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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  1. #1 Sean Clinton 16 Apr 12

    Despite assurances from jewellers and others with a vested interest in the diamond industry, the trade in blood diamonds never ended - it flourished under the guise of so-called conflict free diamonds.

    Consumers have been deceived and conned into believing that the only blood diamonds are those in the pockets of gun-slinging, sabre-wielding black African rebels. However, the trade in blood diamonds that fund government forces is flourishing – a fact confirmed when the Kimberley Process, ignoring pleas from NGOs, approved the export of diamonds from the Marange area of Zimbabwe where government forces stand accused of gross human rights violations including, the killing 200 people in 2008.

    Of even greater concern is the trade in diamonds crafted in Israel where revenue form the diamond industry is a major source of funding for the nuclear-armed apartheid regime that stands accused of serious war crimes and possible crimes against humanity by the UN Human Rights Council following the Israeli assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008/2009 that killed over 1400 people, including more than 300 children.

    Israel is one of the world’s leading manufacturers/exporters of cut & polished diamonds. Jewellers deceitfully claim Israeli diamonds are conflict free – a totally unjustified assertion given Israel’s record of gross human rights violations and breaches of international human rights law and humanitarian law.

  2. #2 Sharon 17 Apr 12

    I am aware of the campaign against Israeli diamonds. I think it stinks of hypocrisy and hatred.

    Surely you should be boycotting British and American diamonds because of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Surely you should be boycotting Indian diamonds because of the campaigns in Kashmir.
    Surely you should be boycotting Russian diamonds because of the campaigns in Chechnya.
    Surely you should be boycotting Chinese diamonds because of their human rights.
    Surely you should be boycotting Lebanese and Dubai diamonds because of their connections with Al-Qaeda & Hizbullah terrorism.
    And the list goes on.... but what is the point of listing more.

    Only one state is targetted. And that is because it is Jewish.

  3. #3 Sean Clinton 17 Apr 12

    Sharon asks why there isn't a campaing to boycott diamonds from other countries and the answer is quite straight forward: none of the countries that she mentions stand accused of serious war crimes and crimes against humanity by the UN Human Rights Council and most importantly none of them are as heavily reliant on the trade in diamonds as Israel is. Diamonds account for 30% of Israel exports. Evidence given to the Russle Tribunal in Palestine indicated that the Israeli diamond industry generates over $1 billion in revenue for the Israeli military/security industry each year. Israeli diamonds are funding a nuclear-armed belligernt regime that murders, maims and terrorises with impunity. Our governments have filed to hold Israel to account so civil society must act to end the trade in Israeli diamonds that are funding the occupation and brutal subjugation of Palestine. See detail here -

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This article was originally published in issue 451

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