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South African bodies call for Israel to be excluded from diamond processing over ‘war crimes’

South African bodies call for Israel to be excluded from diamond processing over ‘war crimes’
South African human rights groups, trade unions and major civil society organisations are calling for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to exclude Israel from diamond processing.

The certification scheme is designed to stop 'conflict diamonds' from entering the mainstream diamond market and was set up in 2003. The organisation which runs the scheme is currently meeting in South Africa.  

The coalition of organisations such as South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers, the country's largest trade union federation COSATU; South African Students Congress; the Coalition for a Free Palestine and BDS South Africa say that “billions of dollars' worth of diamonds exported via Israel are a major source of revenue for the Israeli military, which stands accused of war crimes."

The coalition is calling for Israel to be excluded from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme due to its human rights record against Palestinians, and to end all exports of rough diamonds to Israel immediately.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is the process to prevent "conflict diamonds" from entering the mainstream rough diamond market. Established by UN GA Resolution 55/56 in 2003, the process is aimed "to ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments." In order for a country to be a participant, it must ensure that any diamond originating from the country does not finance a rebel group or other entity seeking to overthrow a UN-recognized government, that every diamond export be accompanied by a Kimberley Process certificate and that no diamond is imported from, or exported to, a non-member of the scheme. As of 30 November 2012, there were 54 participants in the KPCS representing 80 countries, with the European Union counting as a single participant.

The organizations also wants to ban diamond polishing and cutting in Israel. They claim excluding Israel from the diamond processing would be a great chance for the South African authorities to display "moral vision and political leadership".

"The Kimberley Process has played an important role over the past decade in resolving conflicts linked to the diamond trade but there is no doubt that it has to be reformed... [by] expanding the definition of conflict to include human rights abuses linked to diamond extraction perpetrated by governments and companies; and expanding downstream monitoring so that the process covers not just the rough diamond trade but also the international movement and polishing of diamonds," Southern Africa Resource Watch director Claude Kabemba told the Business Day newspaper. 

The coalition also pointed to the local benefits of such a move, claiming it could bring more diamond processing jobs back to South Africa. "Consumers will have a clear conscience that their diamonds are not funding, assisting or in any way involved with the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine, and more jobs will be created locally for our people by bringing this diamond processing back home instead of it being done in Israel," South African activist Mbuyiseni Ndlozi is quoted by the Middle East Monitor as saying.

The Kimberley Process, established a decade ago to help resolve international diamond trade conflicts and to ensure that the diamond trade is not used as an instrument to fund military rebellions and other violence interfering with human rights. The organization includes 54 participants representing 90 countries while its members account for about 99.8 percent of the global production of rough diamonds, the Middle East Monitor reports.