Even though the diamond industry tries to convince consumers that the Kimberley Process (KP) certification keeps conflict diamonds off the market, recent events illustrate how the KP has failed to reduce the violence connected to the production of diamonds.
The KP continues to certify diamonds from Zimbabwe even though the mining of these stones causes unspeakable human suffering.
Hundreds of civilian miners have been murdered by the Zimbabwean military, which, in 2008, forcefully and illegally seized valuable diamond fields in the country's Marange district and continues to control its diamond production.
Human Rights Watch has documented mass murders, forced labor of adults and children, rape, torture, beatings, by the Zimbabwe military.
Such findings support KP's own investigation, yet the KP certifies diamonds from Zimbabwe as "conflict free".
The Zimbabwean military trades diamonds for weapons, fortifying and prolonging Robert Mugabe's oppressive and anti-democratic regime.
Zimbabwe's diamond production is currently valued at $33 million dollars annually, with over $150 million dollars smuggled out since 2003. The country is estimated to have over $16.5 million tons of diamond reserve available for mining, which means that there will be no end to the suffering of those who are forced to mine the stones.
Although industry leaders including the World Diamond Council (WDC) have called on jewelers to monitor their inventory so as to stop the sales of diamonds coming from the Marange District, a more effective response would be to call for an end to trading in all Zimbabwean diamonds.
Unfortunately, too many jewelers continue to sell Zimbabwean diamonds as conflict free while failing to demand an international system that ensures ethically mined diamonds.
A 2004 Amnesty international survey found that 83% of US jewelers say that their customers rarely or never ask about the source of diamonds. A more recent study in 2007 found that 56% of jewelers don't even have an auditing procedure to prevent the retail of conflict diamonds.
For more detailed information, visit the fact sheet on conflict diamonds put up by Brilliant Earth, a jewelry company that gets its diamonds from Canadian and Namibian mines, where labor practices are regulated and the precious stones are ethically sourced.
For those interested in signing a petition to demand that the Kimberley Process stop certifying Zimbabwean diamonds as conflict free, click here.