Israel gets rare opportunity to lead an international battle against violation of human rights: A convention of the Kimberley Process, an initiative that has been fighting against trade of blood diamonds since 2000, will open on Monday in Tel Aviv and representatives from dozens of countries will gather to discuss the recent trouble with Zimbabwe – also a member of the process.
According to testimonies, Zimbabwe has violated its commitment to the process and continued to trade in diamonds that have been extracted while severely infringing human rights, including the takeover of mines by the military, exploitation of local workers and transfer of funds to companies affiliated with President Robert Mugabe's party.
The battle for exploitation-free trade in diamonds is a long and hard one. The precious stone has long been considered the best friend of several corrupt African governments, and constitute one of the main reasons for continuous bloodshed across the continent.
The Kimberly Process, with Israel as its current president, has aimed at putting an end to trade of blood diamonds, and ensuring that diamonds that are sent to jewelry companies across the world are extracted in a fair process.
Some doubt the effectiveness of the process, and especially the difficulty in making binding decisions among government officials, businessmen and diamond dealers.
Ahead of the conference, New York based Human Rights Watch organization (HRW) published an updated report that reveals the difficult situation in the diamond mines of east Zimbabwe's Marange region.
The authors of the report called on governments and organizations taking part in the Kimberly Process to stop Zimbabwe from exporting diamonds from the military controlled region. The report also indicated that forced labor and expulsion of residents from their homes has become a common practice in the area.
'Government turns blind eye'HRW Vice President Carroll Bogert arrived in Israel in an effort to pressure the member states of the Kimberly Process. In an interview with Ynet, Bogert said the decision to allow export of diamonds from the region might lead to further deterioration of the humanitarian situation.
"We've already tried everything in Zimbabwe," she said, "The Kimberly Process is obligated to stop the phenomenon, and we think it has to be used to try and change the situation in the country. It's not the perfect tool, but it's not a complete waste of time either. Diamonds extracted from areas with severe human rights violations are still making their way to the consumer."
Zimbabwean authorities continue to prevent human rights organizations from visiting Marange region, and have lately detained a local director of a research and development institution who transferred documents testifying of the serious conditions to representatives of HRW.
A Zimbabwean member of parliament told HRW that officers and government officials, as well as workers at the two private companies in Marange are the only ones who enjoy the massive revenues of the diamond industry.
According to the parliament member, "The natural resources in Marange are robbed daily on a large scale. Despite this, the government turns a blind eye and wants the whole world to believe that everything is OK in Marange."
Referring to Israel's ability to influence the decision vis-à-vis trade of blood diamonds in Marange, Bogert said, "When you are leading the process, you have more power. The process is based on consensus, which is a problem; but the country that is leading can influence. It is a diplomatic challenge, and the agendas of different bodies clash. Israel has an opportunity to lead an important struggle for human rights."