LONDON (AFP) — Rights campaigners Global Witness called Tuesday for Venezuela to be excluded from the international diamond market, accusing it of undermining the fight against trade in so-called blood diamonds.
The group called on the European Commission to expel Venezuela for "flagrant non-compliance" with the Kimberley Process (KP), the regulatory system designed to prevent trade in diamonds used to fund conflicts.
"Failure to do so could compromise the entire scheme," said a statement from the group.
"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 in the statement.
"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."
Global Witness referred to a 2006 report by Partnership Africa Canada, a non-governmental agency, that implicated Venezuela in the trade in illicitly mined and smuggled diamonds.
"Venezuela has also failed in its obligation to provide the KP with an annual report and credible statistics this year," it added.
Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) itself echoed that position in a press release on its website:
"Venezuela made a half-hearted attempt to supply a few statistics earlier this year, but the numbers are simply not credible," it said.
PAC said it had repeatedly called on the European Commission, which currently administers the Kimberley Process, to "get tough with Venezuela."
Global Witness noted that Ivory Coast was also involved in the trade in conflict or blood diamonds.
It referred to a 2006 UN report that indicated that 23 million dollars of conflict diamonds had been smuggled out of Ivory Coast and into the international market, a situation confirmed by subsequent reports.
"The international diamond industry also needs to live up to its promise of self-regulation to combat the trade in conflict diamonds," said Global Witness.
The Kimberley Process is jointly run by governments and the diamond industry and groups 45 countries and international organisations.
The UN-backed scheme was set up in 2000 to try to end the use of diamonds to fund conflicts such as those fought in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
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