20 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Human Rights Sidelined in EU Deal On Zim Diamonds

A 'deal' struck between Belgium and the UK over Zimbabwe's diamonds could see human rights in the country being sidelined, with Europe planning to lift a Zim diamond blacklist after elections.

The details of this deal emerged after a meeting of European Union (EU) diplomats in Brussels on Monday, where it was decided that 21 individuals and one company would be removed from the bloc's list of targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe. This partial lifting came with assurances that the measures will be totally lifted after a credible constitutional referendum.

Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders also said that a block on European trade with the Zim state run mining entity, the ZMDC, would be removed after a credible election. He told press in Brussels on Monday that this would be automatic a month after the poll, unless all 27 EU countries agree "the elections have not been peaceful, transparent, credible or they have reasonable grounds to believe ZMDC has been involved in activities undermining democracy during the election."

Belgium has been pushing for the measures against the ZMDC to be dropped immediately, a call that has seen the country face criticism for putting its economic interests in Zimbabwe ahead of human rights concerns. With the EU now sanctioning the 'diamonds-for-democracy' deal, the European grouping is facing the same criticism.

Tiseke Kasambala, the Africa Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch, said Wednesday that there are ongoing human rights concerns at the Chiadzwa diamond fields.

"Our reports have highlighted the grave human rights abuses there, particularly in 2008, where up to 100 people were killed. More recent, credible reports by groups like Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada, have pointed to a lack of transparency and suggested that perhaps the diamond proceeds will be used to fund abuses and repression ahead of possible elections this year," Kasambala told SW Radio Africa.

She added: "The EU is putting profits before principle in coming to this kind of deal."

She criticised the EU for making this deal and its decision on Zimbabwe's targeted sanctions, before real reforms have been made.

"We believe the EU should have look at the issues holistically, so look at human rights reforms on the ground and at Chiadzwa and whether those have taken place before, before coming up with this agreement," she said.

She warned that the "EU has given Mugabe and ZANU PF free rein to continue its repression of the people of Zimbabwe without addressing core issue of accountability for past human rights abuses and a lack of human rights reform."

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