How Israel Can Help Stop the Flow of Zimbabwe’s Blood Diamonds

Source : http://www.hrw.org

Diamonds and Human Rights by Rona E. Peligal

Browsing for diamond jewelry off Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv, you can't tell by looking where the diamonds in the store windows come from. But experts can. And those same experts have affirmed that diamonds from the Marange fields of eastern Zimbabwe are mined under highly abusive conditions - the latest "blood diamonds" of the twenty-first century.

To its credit, the Israeli government has tried to put pressure on Zimbabwe to improve these conditions. In the coming year, as chair of the global group that monitors the diamond industry, Israel will have the opportunity to do even more.

Few outsiders have penetrated the closely guarded diamond fields in Marange, and many of the locals are afraid to talk. But Human Rights Watch researchers repeatedly travelled to the area in 2009 and quietly interviewed dozens of victims and witnesses of human rights abuse. We documented the killing of more than 200 people by Zimbabwe's military, as well as torture and the use of forced labor, including children, in the diamond fields.

So who benefits from Zimbabwe's diamond wealth? Mostly members of the military, officials in corporations that are cozy with the government, and the men in President Robert Mugabe's inner circle. They have unfettered access to the fields and are using diamond revenue to maintain their grip on power in the face of international sanctions. Mugabe is now part of a power-sharing government with the former opposition, but in fact he's sharing very little power at all - and none of the diamond wealth.

Original article on The Marker/Haaretz (Israel)

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