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NGOs Challenge Zimbabwe Official's Claim of Kimberly Diamond Clearance

Kimberly Process members had until Monday to vote on an amendment to an agreement drafted in Jerusalem late last year which would make it harder for critics of Harare's Marange policy to initiate investigations of abuses

Non-governmental organizations involved in the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme have challenged claims by Zimbabwean Deputy Mines Minister Gift Chimanikire that the watchdog group authorized Zimbabwe to hold two Marange diamond auctions in 2011.

In published comments, Chimanikire has insisted that the Kimberly Process confirmed the gems to be sold under the purported agreement were mined from 2006 to 2009, so they did not fall under a current suspension of sales pending resolution of various issues.

A statement has yet to be received from the new Kimberly Process chairman, Mathieu Yamba of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Global Witness campaigner Elly Harrowell, a Kimberly Process member, told VOA that she knows of no such Kimberly decision.

Harrowell told VOA Studio 7 reporter Tatenda Gumbo that the question of how diamonds from Zimbabwe's troubled Marange field may be marketed has not been resolved.

Kimberly Process members meanwhile had until Monday to vote on an amendment to the agreement the organization drafted in Jerusalem late last year in a final attempt by outgoing chairman Boaz Hirsch’s to reach consensus on Marange diamonds.

The amendment would revise Kimberly protocols to require three instead of two member nations to accept reports of violence so the group can investigate further. The change would make it harder for critics of Marange operations to trigger a new inquiry.

Alan Martin, research director with Partnership Africa Canada, a Kimberly member group, said the amendment would not allow the KP working group on monitoring to quickly act on allegations of abuses, adding that there are a number of underlying issues that must be resolved for Kimberly to clear the way for more auctions of Marange diamonds.

Grave human rights abuses including killings and forced labor are alleged to have taken place in the Marange alluvial diamond field in eastern Manicaland province, which has been under Zimbabwean military control for several years.