EU Should Push to Protect Rights in Diamond Trade

HRW

EU Should Push to Protect Rights in Diamond Trade


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As the European Union gears up to host governments, the diamond industry, and nongovernmental groups involved in the diamond-trading city of Antwerp to take stock of the Kimberley Process, the certification process set up nearly two decades ago to end the blood diamond trade, pressure is beginning to mount for an overhaul of the Process in order to better enforce the protection of human rights.

The European Union-currently the chair of the Kimberley Process-should push for change to improve the protection of human rights starting with mining and throughout the entire supply chain.

Far away from Antwerp, villagers in Marange, Zimbabwe recently faced a violent crackdown by police and soldiers. Why? Because the villagers were protesting state-run companies that steal billions of euros in revenue from local diamond mines.

Zimbabwe’s diamond mine companies have a long history of human rights abuses.  Armed forces killed more than 200 people when the military first seized control of the mines in 2008 before kidnapping children and adults and putting them into forced labour camps. In April, local organisations reported that security guards had handcuffed local miners and unleashed attack dogs on them.

Diamonds from Zimbabwe are still exported legally into the international market under the Kimberley Process. Diamonds tainted by abuse or forced labour can still reach the global diamond market easily.

The Kimberley Process is narrowly focused on curbing abuses perpetrated by armed groups, but ignores human rights violations by state actors. It also lacks an independent monitoring system to check if the necessary customs controls are actually in place.

Compounding the issue is that fact that the Kimberley Process only applies to rough diamonds, allowing stones that are fully or partially cut and polished to fall outside the scope of the initiative.

At a meeting in Antwerp, delegates should seek to strengthen human rights protection in the diamond supply chain, including by expanding the Kimberley Process’ definition of “conflict diamonds”.

Under international standards, companies need to have due diligence safeguards in place to identify and respond to human rights risks throughout their supply chain. Many jewellery companies, however, do not live up to these standards. Human Rights Watch recently scrutinised the diamond sourcing practices of 13 leading jewellery and watch brands, whose combined annual revenue totals about $30 billion.

We found that many companies point to their compliance with the Kimberley Process as evidence that their diamonds are “responsibly sourced,” but take limited action to identify forced labour or other human rights risks in their diamond supply chains.

Companies and governments need to do much more to ensure human rights are protected. The Kimberley Process should adopt a wider definition of “conflict diamonds” to address abuses like those seen in Marange and establish an independent monitoring system and ensure more rigorous controls.

Jewellery companies, diamond traders, and cutters and polishers need to take responsibility, too, and establish robust human rights safeguards throughout their supply chain, to ensure they are not linked to or contributing to human rights abuses in Marange or anywhere else.

Companies and governments need to do much more to ensure that human rights are protected. The Kimberley Process should adopt a wider definition of conflict diamonds to address abuses like those seen in Marange, and establish an independent monitoring system and ensure more rigorous controls.

Jewellery companies, diamond traders, and cutters and polishers need to take responsibility, too, and establish robust human rights safeguards throughout their supply chain, to ensure they are not linked to or contributing to human rights abuses in Marange or anywhere else.

Juliane Kippenberg is a child rights expert at Human Rights Watch and co-author of “The Hidden Cost of Jewelry”, a report on jewellery supply chains published in February 2018. Follow her on Twitter @KippenbergJ

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