If you're in the market for some diamond jewelry but not for forced labor or human rights violations, buyer beware. Zimbabwe recently auctioned off 900,000 karats of diamonds from it's controversial Marange fields, where there have been reports of widespread forced labor and other human rights abuses. And the auction was supervised by a monitor for the Kimberley Process, the group tasked with preventing blood diamonds from entering the global market. Zimbabwe, and especially the Marange region, has had serious issues with violence and labor abuses in the diamond industry for years. Forced labor is rampant, and workers have reported being forced to mine diamonds at gunpoint and guarded with armed soldiers while they worked. Those who refused to join the military syndicates that control 95% of the mines in the area were assaulted. In addition to the direct rights violations, the lost revenue from diamonds that are being illegally smuggled and traded denies the Zimbabwean people desperately needed funds to help rebuild their economy. Marange is full of the sorts of industry abuses the Kimberley Process was created to protect against and other abuses no body is tasked with controlling, like human trafficking.
Katy Glen over at the Human Rights blog recently wondered whether or not whether the Kimberley Process has failed in Zimbabwe. It certainly didn't do a great job over the weekend, when it allowed between $30 and $54 million dollars of diamonds from mines with horrific human rights abuses to be auctioned off into the international market. It hasn't done consumers who are looking for conflict-free diamonds that don't support slavery, child labor, or environmental harm any good, as the Kimberley Process doesn't consider those issues. And it hasn't helped the people of Zimbabwe, who aren't getting their fair share of diamond sales which are allowed to go through. Maybe the Kimberly Process hasn't failed Zimbabwe. Maybe it's just failed.