South African gov't claims diamond trade is more than 99% conflict free

South Africa's mineral resources minister said Tuesday more than 99% of the global diamond trade comes from conflict-free zones, Business Day reports.

The minister was speaking to diamond industry representatives, government officials and citizens' groups at a meeting in Kimberley, in the north-central part of the country, for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.

Consumer confidence has been restored in the commodity, the minister said, and everyone wants to prevent the precious stones "from being used as an instrument of maiming innocent people." She also said diligence is required to keep the legitimate diamond industry from being contaminated by illicit diamonds.

The KPCS regulates the trade of rough diamonds amongst its member countries and aims to keep out diamonds which are use to finance violence. Currently, South Africa is the KP chair and China will take over the role in 2014.

Meanwhile, 20 organizations — including South African Artists against Apartheid, the African National Congress Youth League, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions — have called on officials to make changes to the KP scheme.

They want the definition of conflict diamonds to include all gems that fund human rights violations in order to ensure government forces in countries such as Zimbabwe and Israel cannot use revenue from the industry to further their political agenda.

The group claims the KP overlooks internationally recognized war crimes, crimes against humanity, illegal occupation and settlements and widespread human rights abuses.

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