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European Parliament Demands Release of Zimbabwe Diamond Activist Maguwu

  • Gibbs Dube

The EU assembly also called for the Kimberly Process itself to be overhauled to take account of human rights principles beyond its traditional role of barring the export and sale of so-called blood or conflict diamonds

The European Parliament has called for the release of Zimbabwean human rights activist Farai Maguwu, arrested in early June for allegedly circulating false reports about the controversial Marange diamond field in the east of the country, and urged the Zimbabwean government to comply with Kimberly Process standards.

The EU assembly also called for the Kimberly Process itself to be overhauled to take account of human rights principles beyond its traditional role of barring the export and sale of so-called blood or conflict diamonds.

It said the Harare government should use diamond revenues to help rebuild the entire economy.

European parliament member Geoffrey Van Orden told Studio 7 Zimbabwe should withdraw soldiers from the Marange field, stop human rights abuses and release Maguwu, a vocal critic of government policies.

The parliament said Zimbabweans are being denied access to their natural resources and treated with contempt despite the formation of a unity government. Van Orden said European members believe only a few officials of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party will benefit if diamonds are sold without reforms.

"Mugabe and his close supporters remain a continuing stumbling block in the process of political and economic reconstruction and reconciliation in Zimbabwe, plundering as they do its economic resources for their own benefit", the European Parliament resolution stated.

Parliamentary mines committee member Moses Mare tells reporter Gibbs Dube that Marange diamonds should never be sold outside the Kimberley certification process.

Leading Kimberly members will further discuss whether to certify diamonds from the controversial field next week in St. Petersburg, Russia, on the margins of the World Diamond Council's annual meeting.

In Harare, top officials ranging from minister of mines Obert Mpofu to finance minister Tendai Biti have been urging certification so that Marange diamonds can be sold to raise funds for Zimbabwe’s economic recovery.

But human rights activists say Kimberly should withhold certification until abuses in Marange end.

A recent Kimberly process meeting in Tel Aviv, Israel, deadlocked on the certification issue, which was exacerbated by Maguwu's arrest. Maguwu remains in police custody in Harare pending trial. Bail has been refused.

For a discussion of whether the Kimberly Process should certify Marange diamonds, which government officials say could benefit Zimbabwe, VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere spoke with senior researcher Tiseke Kasambala of Human Rights Watch and economist Prosper Chitambara of the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe. He said diamond revenues are not likely to have much impact on the economy.

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