Reporting from Washington — The international organization that monitors conflict diamonds has agreed to allow Zimbabwe to export diamonds from its vast Marange mining fields despite rampant human rights abuses in the area.
The decision by the Kimberley Process — as the regulatory group governed by diamond-trading nations is known — threatens an end to world consensus over blocking so-called blood diamonds from the market and makes it impossible for consumers to have confidence that the diamonds they buy did not contribute to violence, said some participants in the group's meeting this week in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
On Thursday, Kimberley Process Chairman Mathieu Yamba said Zimbabwe would be allowed to export rough diamonds from Marange under a system of minimal human rights oversight, participants said. The regulatory group's decisions are supposed to be made by consensus, but the United States, Canada and the European Union swiftly protested.
"Until consensus is reached, exports from Marange should not proceed," the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
The ruling party in Zimbabwe seized Marange in 2009 allegedly by killing hundreds of prospectors. President Robert Mugabe's party continues to control the area with violence and forced labor, rights groups say.