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Kimberly Process Zimbabwe Monitor Expresses Outrage Over Theft of Documents

Chikane told VOA that he was still considering his next move, but added that he still sees Zimbabwe as on course to receive certification from the Kimberly Process to sell diamonds from Marange into international markets

Kimberly Process monitor Abbey Chikane expressed outrage Tuesday at the alleged removal of documents from his briefcase by state security agents while he was in Zimbabwe, photocopies of which were provided to state media.

The Herald newspaper, the Sunday Mail and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation published or broadcast extracts from the documents and e-mails in reports that accused the Kimberly Process of being a tool of West nations, in particular the United States and Britain, which have expressed concern over illegal diamond exports.

Chikane said in an interview that he was still considering his next move, but added that he continues to see Zimbabwe as on course to receive certification to sell diamonds from the controversial Marange alluvial field into international markets. Human rights groups have alleged abuses of local residents and illegal exports of diamonds.

In one of the photocopied emails, U.S. State Department special adviser on conflict diamonds Brad Brooks-Rubin was said to have advised Chikane to "endeavor to meet with the representatives of the parliamentary committee" on mines that has been prevented by Mines Minister Obert Mpofu from conducting a fact-finding visit to Marange. Reports said Brooks-Rubin also urged Chikane to meet civil society representatives.

Chikane did ask to meet with the parliamentary committee, leading some officials in Harare to charge that his itinerary was prepared for him by the West. Some of the e-mails allegedly purloined from Chikane were from Canada, the European Union and other unnamed African countries. The KP monitor said he planned his tour himself.

Chikane also said there was need for Harare to work hard to ensure the diamonds from Marange benefit the whole country and not individuals.

Responding to critics who said Chikane has not talked about human rights abuses in Marange, the Kimberly official responded that his brief is to look at the technical standards Harare must meet. However, Chikane said human rights groups in the Kimberly Process work closely with all members in trying to address human rights issues.

But Dewa Mavhinga, regional coordinator for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said that if Zimbabwean officials broke into the baggage of the monitor, the Kimberly Process must take serious action against Harare.