Groups demand end to diamond persecutions

abbey_chikane2HARARE - Civil society groups have condemned the state-sponsored harassment and intimidation of a Zimbabwean non-governmental organisation which has been instrumental in exposing ongoing human rights abuses at the countrys notorious Marange diamond fields. (Pictured: KP Mon

The groups, which included Global Witness and Human Rights Watch, last week called for an immediate end to the harassment of officials from the Mutare-based Centre for Research and Development (CRD) by state security agents. Operatives from the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) raided the home of CRD director Farai Maguwu on May 27.

They confiscated documents and equipment, before arresting Maguwus nephew Lisbern Maguwu. Maguwu and other CRD staff have been in hiding since the raid and lawyers attempting to gain access to Lisbern Maguwu have been interrogated and threatened by police. The raid came just days after Maguwu had met with Abbey Chikane, the monitor appointed by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), who was in Zimbabwe to assess the countrys compliance with a series of requirements that were imposed in November 2009.

This is the latest in a series of attempts by the Zimbabwean authorities to intimidate Centre for Research and Development

representatives, and stop them from investigating and publicising ongoing abuses in the Marange diamond fields, said Bernard Taylor of Partnership Africa Canada. The lawyer who represented a man wanted in connection with uncovering diamond smuggling from the infamous Chiadzwa mines has gone into hiding after being threatened and harassed by the police.

Blessing Nyamaropa, a member of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), was allegedly assaulted by Chief Superintendent Crispen Makedenge and Detective Inspector Henry Dowa, after he attempted to make enquiries about his client, Lisben Maguwu. Farai Maguwu is wanted in connection with a report released by CRD last month in which it was alleged that thousands of carats of diamonds were being smuggled out of Marange daily.

The CRD is a member of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, an official observer of the international scheme. The Kimberley Process is a rough diamond certification scheme that seeks to eradicate the trade in conflict diamonds, responsible for

fuelling brutal conflicts in the past. The CRD has played a central role in recording human rights abuses carried out by state security agents against local people in the Marange diamond fields, and has frequently made this information available to Kimberley Process participant governments and working groups.

A number of prominent organisations, including Global Witness, Partnership Africa Canada, and Human Rights Watch have documented grave human rights abuses in Marange and have called on Kimberley Process member states to suspend Zimbabwe from the scheme, halt the export of its stones, and broaden the mandate of the KP to include human rights violations committed by governments.

Over the past two years, more than 200 informal diamond panners have been killed in eastern Zimbabwe by units of the Zimbabwean army and police, which have also been intimately involved in the illicit exploitation and smuggling of diamonds from Marange. Kimberley Process participant countries have so far failed to reach consensus on suspending Zimbabwe from membership. In November 2009, a compromise action plan was agreed upon by the KP and Zimbabwe, but evidence, including the raid on CRD, suggests that, while Zimbabwe might have addressed some technical concerns, the human rights situation on the ground has not improved.

Kimberley Process member governments and Abbey Chikane must denounce this persecution and Zimbabwes blatant disregard for the Kimberley Process core principles, said Elly Harrowell of Global Witness. Harrowell added: Instead of working to bring the countrys diamond sector into line with international standards, Zimbabwean officials have chosen to target rights groups for investigating and publicising problems in the diamond sector.

The civil society groups called on KP members to suspend the monitoring arrangement provided for under the November work plan until Zimbabwean authorities give concrete assurances that people who provide information to the KP will not be persecuted and harassed by the state security agencies for their actions.

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