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UN ‘blood diamond’ group aims to salvage campaign

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The new chief of the UN-sponsored Kimberley Process that aims to stop “blood diamonds” reaching market said she was in talks to regain support of a campaign group that recently quit the scheme.

Kimberley Process chairwoman Gillian Milovanovic on Friday said she was “continuing discussions” with London-based Global Witness, which helped set up the voluntary certification scheme in 2003, about their complaints.

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Global Witness pulled out of the scheme in December, citing a recent decision to allow Zimbabwe to sell gems tainted by army killings as the final straw.

“We are sorry (Global Witness) made the decision” to withdraw, Milovanovic, the former US ambassador to Mali who was appointed to her new post last month, told reporters during a teleconference.

“We are in constant touch. We will continue to be speaking with one another gathering ideas, conversing so that it is not the end of the discussion,” she added.

Seventy-five countries and several human rights groups joined the Kimberley Process after a report to the United Nations revealed that diamond mining funded wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia and human rights abuses against miners in other countries.

Participating countries agreed not to allow diamonds lacking Kimberley Process certification to be imported or exported, in a bid to cut the links between diamond sales that have funded human killings during war and conflict.

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Global Witness was one of the first human rights and environmental groups to reveal the blood diamond abuses.

But the organization withdrew its participation on December 5 after claiming it was ineffective in preventing torture and other abuses of miners in the Ivory Coast, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

“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,” said Global Witness, explaining its criticism.

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The group described a Kimberley Process authorization granted to Zimbabwe in June to sell diamonds from mines where the country’s army is accused of abuses as “an outrage.”

Despite Global Witness’s decision, Milovanovic said that the certification scheme “has clearly had a positive effect on stemming the tide of conflict diamonds and that the trend definitely has been a positive one.”

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Congress fixes – just a bit – the unpopular, ‘unfair’ rule that stopped injured service members from suing for damages

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Members of the military who have long been barred by law from collecting damages from the federal government for injuries off the battlefield will finally be able to do so after Congress stepped in to amend the law.

The legislation represents progress for injured service members – but still limits who among them may press for damages.

Up until the end of World War II, the U.S. government enjoyed “sovereign immunity,” a vestige of British rule when “the king could do no wrong” and the government could not be sued.

But in 1946, faced with the prospect of World War II veterans returning from the front only to be hit and killed in an accident on base, Congress enacted the Federal Tort Claims Act. Congress felt that it was only fair to allow people to recover damages for personal injury from the government when the government was negligent or irresponsible about caring for people’s safety.

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2020 Election

Minnesota pastor leads campaign to try to shift evangelical vote away from Trump

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Rev. Doug Pagitt jumped on stage at his former Minneapolis church with a message that he and his entourage are repeating across the country: Evangelical voters, you can stay true to your Christian faith but not vote for President Donald Trump.Their “Vote Common Good” campaign, conducted from a bright orange bus making stops at every Democratic state primary, represents the small cracks in the evangelical base that helped propel Trump into office. More than 80% of white evangelical Christians voted for Trump in 2016, and continue to support him in his bid for reelection.Pagitt... (more…)

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2020 Election

GOP’s Susan Collins faces tough re-election fight as support plummets following vote to acquit Trump

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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, appears to be facing the toughest election of her career, with her support plummeting in a new poll.

Collins is in a virtual tie with Maine Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, one of four Democrats running to face the GOP incumbent, according to a new Colby College poll first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Gideon leads the Democratic field in the poll by more than 50% and is the overwhelming favorite to face the Republican in November.

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