Members of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme opened talks in Jerusalem on Monday with the question of Zimbabwean exports of diamonds from the controversial Marange field at the top of the agenda.
Since August the watchdog organization has been certifying diamonds for export sale in monitored auctions in Harare. One such auction was held in August, and another was held in September.
But Human Rights Watch has urged the Kimberley Process to ban diamond exports until Harare makes “clear progress” toward ending what it says are continued human rights violations in the Marange field, and diamond smuggling.
The US-based group said recent research found large parts of the Marange fields under control of Zimbabwe's military, which it says is smuggling rough diamonds out of the country and abusing local workers.
A decision from the Kimberley meeting of some 300 delegates from 75 countries is expected late this week.
On Monday a Kimberley review mission to Zimbabwe presented its findings of its recent past visit to Harare.
It said Harare was largely in compliance with Kimberley regulations, but added that Harare should do more to ensure full demilitarization of the field, the eradication of smuggling and an end to low-level rights abuses.
The report said Harare should improve its relationships with civil society groups monitoring Marange operations, and urged more stringent selection of investors and the creation of a small-scale mining framework.
Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said Zimbabwe would proceed sales without certification if the Kimberley Process did not give the country a blank check to sell Marange diamonds into the international marketplace.
Mpofu rejected the nomination of Shamiso Mtisi of the Environmental Lawyers Association as head of the so-called NGO focal point, whose six member organizations include Farai Maguwu's Center for Research and Development.
Mpofu brought his own civic representatives plus Affirmative Action Group President Supa Mandiwanzira.
From Jerusalem, Human’s Rights Watch researcher Tiseke Kasambala said the review mission, while endorsing the operations of Mbada Diamonds and Canadile Mining, partners with the government in developing Marange, highlighted intimidation and harassment of Zimbabweans working with the Kimberley mission on its visits.
World Diamond Council president Eli Izhakoff told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira the Kimberley decision should maintain the group’s integrity while allowing Zimbabwe leeway in bringing its diamonds to market.
Regional Coordinator Dewa Mavhinga of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said the Kimberley Process should maintain close supervision over the export sale of diamonds from the Marange field in eastern Manicaland province.