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Kimberley Process Meeting Begins As Rights Watchdog Urges Focus on Zimbabwe

The Kimberly Process intersessional meeting kicked off in Washington Monday with Human Rights Watch urging the diamond monitor to tackle what it called continuing human rights violations in Zimbabwe's Marange fields.

The meeting, which runs through Thursday, will take up a range of topics related to the mining and trading of conflict-free rough diamonds, a press statement from the State Department said.

The Zimbabwe delegation comprises Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, Attorney General Johannes Tomana and civil society members, including prominent diamond campaigner Farai Maguwu.

Human Rights Watch Africa director, Daniel Bekele urged the Kimberley Process, under the chairmanship of Washington, to "address the ongoing rights abuses in Zimbabwe’s Marange fields and the lack of transparency by mining companies operating there.”

"The KP meeting should demand more tangible progress from Zimbabwe and focus on reforming its certification scheme so that it can tackle the human rights problems that taint diamond production," Bekele said in a statement.

But minister Mpofu vowed he will object to any discussion that brings up the Marange rights issue.

"That will be resisted by countries that want to see the KPC succeed. It was very clear from the opening remarks that all such attempts to raise contentious issues will not be entertained," he told VOA after Monday's session.

In her opening remarks, Kimberley Process chair, Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic said there was need to reform the diamond watchdog. She also pitched a proposal by the U.S. to redefine conflict diamonds.

Zimbabwe and its African allies view the move as meant to further isolate rough diamonds from the controversial Marange fields.

Regional Information and Advocacy coordinator, Dewa Mavhinga, of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said the diamond monitor should not shy away from the Harare rights issue.

The Kimberley Process, charged with preventing the trading of so-called blood diamonds on the mainstream market, has struggled with the Marange diamonds issue, with Western countries maintaining the mining of the gems is done at the expense of human rights.