For immediate release
9 October 2007
Kimberley Process Must Expel Venezuela
Illicit trade risks undermining international scheme to combat blood diamonds
Global Witness called today for the Chair of the Kimberley Process (KP), the European Commission, to expel Venezuela from the government-led rough diamond certification scheme1 for flagrant non-compliance. Failure to do so could compromise the entire scheme.
"Nearly one year after clear evidence of massive diamond smuggling in Venezuela came to light, the country continues to flout the KP," said Charmian Gooch, Director of Global Witness. "If the KP does not address large-scale smuggling of rough diamonds in Venezuela and other countries, it cannot effectively protect against the threat of blood diamonds."
A 2006 report by Partnership Africa Canada, supported by recent independent media articles, revealed that millions of dollars worth of Venezuelan diamonds have been illicitly mined and smuggled into Guyana and Brazil, where they have entered the legitimate trade.2 Venezuela has also failed in its obligation to provide the KP with an annual report and credible statistics this year.
Venezuela is not the only country where violations of the KP are taking place. The UN reported in 2006 that US$ 23 million of conflict diamonds were smuggled out of Côte d'Ivoire into the international trade. This year, further reports confirmed that production and trade of sanctioned Ivorian diamonds continues, and stated that traders in Dubai were in possession of large quantities of uncertified rough diamonds of African origin.3
"Loopholes in major trading and manufacturing centres are allowing conflict and illicit diamonds to enter the legitimate diamond market," said Gooch. "To be credible, the Kimberley Process must require governments to adequately enforce their KP controls, including through regular spot checks to verify industry compliance. The international diamond industry also needs to live up to its promise of self-regulation to combat the trade in conflict diamonds."
The trade in blood diamonds has led to devastating wars in Sierra Leone, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Liberia and over 4 million people have died as a result of these wars.
For more information about illicit diamond flows, please see a briefing paper by Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada available upon request.
Annie Dunnebacke: adunnebac[email protected]; +44 207 561 6397; +44 7703 108 401
Corinna Gilfillan: +1 202 721 5670; +1 202 725 8705
Global Witness campaigns to achieve real change by highlighting the links between the exploitation of natural resources, conflict and corruption. Through a combination of covert investigations and targeted advocacy, Global Witness has changed the way the world thinks about the extraction and trading of natural resources, and the devastating impact their unsustainable exploitation can have upon development, human rights and stability. Global Witness was co-nominated with Partnership Africa Canada for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for its leading work on conflict diamonds and awarded the Gleitsman Foundation prize for international activism in May 2005.
1 The Kimberley Process is an international governmental certification scheme that was set up in 2003 aimed at preventing the trade in conflict diamonds. The KP requires governments to pass legislation to implement an import/export control regime, report trade and production statistics and to participate in a peer review mechanism. Venezuela is the only KP participant not to have agreed to a review visit to date.
2 The PAC report, The Lost World: Diamond Mining and Smuggling in Venezuela, is available at http://www.pacweb.org/e/images/stories/16_thelostworld_nov2006.pdf.
3 See reports of the UN Group of Experts on Côte d'Ivoire, June 2007 and December 2006.