National Jeweler Network

Social Issues

NGO: EU lifting of Zimbabwe sanctions was rushed

By Michelle Graff

September 19, 2013

Brussels--A decision by European Union to lift sanctions against a state-run diamond mining company in Zimbabwe is drawing criticism from the same non-governmental organization that exited the Kimberley Process over issues in the nation.

A spokeswoman for the EU confirmed to National Jeweler that all 28 nations that comprise the EU decided Tuesday to remove the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp.  (ZMDC) from the sanctions list. She said the decision still needs to be turned into a law, which the EU council aims to do “quickly.”

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, EU nations were reportedly at odds over lifting sanctions on the ZMDC.

At issue was interpretation of an agreement EU ministers reached in February that the sanctions would be lifted only if the July election that kept 89-year-old President Robert Mugabe in power was deemed to be transparent and credible.

Belgium, home to the diamond-trading hub of Antwerp, was among the nations pushing for the sanctions to be lifted while other nations, including Great Britain, were hesitant because of reported irregularities in the election results and potential vote-rigging.

London-based human rights organization Global Witness called the EU’s decision to lift sanctions on the ZMDC “rushed,” and noted that there are credible reports that at least one ZMDC joint-venture company helped to fund efforts of ZANU-PF, the country’s ruling party, to rig the election in Mugabe’s favor.

“Our research indicates that ZANU-PF and the military have siphoned revenues from ZMDC’s diamond ventures and that this may have financed the alleged rigging of the recent poll,” said Global Witness Senior Campaigner Emily Armistead. “The EU should have given more time to investigating these claims before lifting sanctions. Now it will be left to European consumers and jewelry companies to ensure that Zimbabwe’s tainted diamonds are not sold in our shops.”

Global Witness opted to leave the Kimberley Process at the end of 2011 because, it claimed, the KP wasn’t evolving to address the link between diamonds and violence and had become outdated. The organization’s decision to exit stemmed in part from the problems in Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields at that time.