The Kimberley Process, of which Switzerland was a founding member, was established in 2003 by governments, industry and civil society to provide both jewelers and consumers with guarantees that their diamond purchases were not underwriting grave abuses, particularly by violent rebel groups. As Switzerland is planning to develop an international diamond exchange in Geneva and wants to play a greater role in the global and domestic jewelry trade, the diamond community insists that greater leadership should be demonstrated in ending the sale and production of ‘blood diamonds’, an ongoing concern. In Zimbabwe, a June 2009 Human Rights Watch report exposed a massacre of 200 people, forced labor, beatings, and rape committed by the Zimbabwean military on diamond fields in Marange. Blood diamonds from Marange continue to be smuggled out of Zimbabwe, stones of which are still entering the showcases of the world’s leading jewelers and, in part because the Kimberley Process has refrained from taking strong action.
The problems with the Kimberley Process is that group’s charter refers to conflict diamonds only in connection with their use by rebel groups to finance wars against legitimate governments whereas it should explicitly condemn human rights abuses period, there is negligible independent monitoring and even fewer penalties for violations, and KP decisions are not democratic, making it almost impossible for well-meaning countries to take action against a member that violates the rules because it takes only one vote to block an action.
Consequently, despite a harsh report last summer by a Kimberley Process review team about abuses in Marange, the group voted in November not to suspend Zimbabwe from membership. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, Russia, South Africa, and Tanzania – all Kimberley Process members – blocked the suspension. Instead, the group voted to allow Zimbabwe to implement a self-imposed action plan that Zimbabwe. Inevitably the plan has not yet resulted in any positive changes on the diamond fields.
Switzerland is being encouraged to stop the sale of blood diamonds, in so doing, protecting Switzerland’s reputation, particularly in the tax-free zones at Zurich and Geneva airports. The Swiss government should implement an importer audit requiring diamond companies to publish their supply chains with customs conduct spot checks of rough and polished diamonds.
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