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Zimbabwe rights activist arrested over conflict diamond information

Zimbabwean human rights activist Farai Maguwu was arrested Thursday for allegedly supplying false information about Zimbabwe's controversial diamond mining practices to the international diamond control body the Kimberley Process (KP) [advocacy website]. Maguwu, head of a prominent non-governmental organization (NGO) monitoring the diamond fields, had been in hiding for several days since his office and residence were raided by police, but he decided to turn himself in after police confiscated his personal belongings and harassed his family to discover his whereabouts. An investigation was launched against Maguwu after he allegedly leaked to the KP a document compiled by the police [SW Radio Africa report] for the Joint Operations Command (JOC), a military-run security agency that was thought to be defunct. The report allegedly confirms allegations recently made by human rights organizations that Zimbabwe is continuing to engage in illegal diamond mining with the use of military force and leads NGOs to believe that the JOC is being subversively employed by the government. Civil society groups such as Global Witness, Partnership Africa Canada, and Maguwu's organization, have called for the suspension of Zimbabwe's international diamond trade due to the human rights violations [Telegraph report] allegedly committed by the Zimbabwean army against civilians and illegal workers in the Marange diamond fields. KP holds an annual meeting [JURIST report] to discuss these issues with human rights groups in an effort to curtail trade in conflict diamonds, or rough diamonds used by insurgencies to finance their movements.

During the summer of 2009, KP appointed a team to conduct a Review Mission [press release, PDF] in Zimbabwe. They suggested that Zimbabwe's membership to the organization be revoked [Times Live, report] for at least six months while the KP could ascertain that minimum standards were being met. The KP then sent its chairperson to Zimbabwe for informative purposes. Despite the allegations, Zimbabwe's deputy minister of Mines and Mining Development of Zimbabwe, in an address delivered at the KP Intercessional Meeting [press release, PDF] earlier this year, emphasized Zimbabwe's dedication to the principles and effective implementation of the KPCS. Illicit trade in rough diamonds has been closely linked to armed conflict [UN backgrounder] in Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone. Since its inception in 2003, the KP has operated [backgrounder] by endeavoring to require its members to follow the regulations set forth by the KPSC, and in turn certifies their shipments of rough diamonds as "conflict-free."

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