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Anti-blood diamonds group called ineffective, outdated

AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi-File

Miners dig for diamonds in Marange, eastern Zimbabwe, Nov. 1, 2006.

Campaign group Global Witness announced Monday that it was leaving a group set up to prevent the international trade of so-called "blood diamonds," saying people buying the precious stones still cannot tell "whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes."

The Kimberley Process -- set up in November 2002 by governments, the diamond industry and civil society organizations -- was designed to impose "extensive requirements on its members to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as 'conflict-free' and prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate trade," according to the body's website.

However, a statement issued Monday by Global Witness said that it had left the Kimberley Process because its "refusal to evolve and address the clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny has rendered it increasingly outdated."

"Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes," Global Witness's founding director, Charmian Gooch, said in the statement.

'Accomplice to diamond laundering'
"The scheme has failed three tests: It failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire, was unwilling to take serious action in the face of blatant breaches of the rules over a number of years by Venezuela and has proved unwilling to stop diamonds fuelling corruption and violence in Zimbabwe. It has become an accomplice to diamond laundering -- whereby dirty diamonds are mixed in with clean gems," she added.

The statement said the Kimberley Process had recently authorized exports from two companies operating in Zimbabwe's Marange diamond fields.

Describing this as a "shocking move," the statement said the Zimbabwean army had killed 200 miners when they took control of the area in 2008.

"Mining concessions were then granted in legally questionable circumstances to several companies, some of them associated with senior figures in [Zimbabwean President] Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party," the statement said.

"Over the last decade, elections in Zimbabwe have been associated with the brutal intimidation of voters. Orchestrating this kind of violence costs a lot of money. As the country approaches another election, there is a very high risk of Zanu-PF hardliners employing these tactics once more and using Marange diamonds to foot the bill. The Kimberley Process’s refusal to confront this reality is an outrage," Gooch added.

"Consumers should not buy Marange diamonds, and industry should not supply them," she said. "All existing contracts in the Marange fields should be cancelled and retendered with terms of reference which reflect international best practice on revenue sharing, transparency, oversight by and protection of the affected communities."

'Remarkable contribution' to world peace
According to the Kimberley Process's website, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme has "evolved into an effective mechanism for stemming the trade in conflict diamonds and is recognized as a unique conflict-prevention instrument to promote peace and security."

It says that combined action by governments, the industry and groups such as Global Witness had enabled the Kimberley Process "to curb successfully the flow of conflict diamonds in a very short period of time."

"Diamond experts estimate that conflict diamonds now represent a fraction of one percent of the international trade in diamonds, compared to estimates of up to 15% in the 1990s," the website says.

"That has been the KP's most remarkable contribution to a peaceful world, which should be measured not in terms of carats, but by the effects on people's lives," it adds.

Calls to four contact numbers listed on the Kimberley Process's website failed to connect Monday and there was no immediate response to an email sent by msnbc.com requesting comment.