The European Union is being urged to strengthen restrictions on the sale of Zimbabwean diamonds, as part of a Valentines Day warning message.
International rights agency Global Witness has for the past few years used Valentines Day to call for tougher legislation and action on Zimbabwe's diamond industry. The group has led the campaign to bar Zimbabwe from trade because of human rights abuses and corruption in the local industry. It even quit its place in the international diamond watchdog group, the Kimberley Process (KP) in 2011 to protest, among other things, the attempts to resume trading with Zimbabwe.
The group has this week once again warned that all is not right in Zimbabwe's diamond trade, despite the KP clearing the country for trade last year. Global Witness said in a statement that European Union (EU) ministers must "strengthen measures which restrict sales of diamonds from Zimbabwe's controversial Marange region to Europe."
The warning comes as Belgium has been pushing for targeted sanctions against Zimbabwean diamond mining interests to be dropped. Belgium has argued that the regulations 'hurt' the amount of revenue filtering down to ordinary Zimbabweans.
But Global Witness has insisted that the country's interests were "closer to home" in its diamond centre of Antwerp.
"Global Witness' investigations point to a serious risk that diamond revenues could be used to fund violence in this year's election. The Belgian government is claiming concern for the Zimbabwean people; however it's true interests are closer to home in the diamond markets of Antwerp," said Global Witness diamonds campaigner, Emily Armistead.
She told SW Radio Africa: "EU members seeking to promote democracy and stability in Zimbabwe should avoid a ménage-à-trois with Belgium and its diamond dealers this Valentine's Day."
Global Witness lasted year reported that evidence indicated that diamonds were providing off-budget financing to the ZANU PF loyal security forces, raising concern that they could be mobilised once again to entrench the party in power. The group uncovered links between joint-venture diamond mining companies in the Marange region and military, police and intelligence organisations loyal to Mugabe.
"We are calling for the state owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation to remain on the list of entities affected by EU restrictive measures and for that list to include the Anjin mining firm, which is a joint venture company with links to senior Zimbabwean military officials and Hong Kong-based businessman Sam Pa," Armistead said.
She added: "Relaxing measures against Zimbabwe's diamond sector now could mean a serious cash injection for security forces with a track record of voter intimidation and violence, just months before the 2013 election. The EU should hold a steady course, and restrict trade with diamond mining operations in Marange until free and fair elections have taken place."
The EU has indicated it could lift the targeted measures in place against the Mugabe regime after a 'credible' constitutional referendum. The EU is meeting next Monday and a final decision on their plans to lift the measures is set to be made then.
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