Professional Jeweler Archive: Consumer Campaign Targets Conflict Diamonds

April 2001

Diamonds/News


Consumer Campaign Targets Conflict Diamonds

Human rights groups also endorse a new conflict proposal by U.S. Rep. Tony Hall. A comparison shows his bill and one from the World Diamond Council are nearly identical


A coalition of more than 50 human rights groups, led by Amnesty International and several others, held a press conference on Valentine’s Day to announce “The Campaign to Eliminate Conflict Diamonds.”

The key elements of the campaign, aimed at consumers, can be viewed online at www.amnestyusa.org/diamonds/index.html. The Web site features a video imitating the De Beers’ “Shadows” campaign, but calling attention to conflict diamonds instead. One hand starts to slip a diamond ring on another hand, but the scene changes and shadowy figures ultimately cut off the hand of a prisoner, in graphic reference to human rights abuses committed in Sierra Leone in the fight over control of diamonds.

Amnesty International encourages a grassroots effort to get the word out about conflict diamonds. The plan includes contacting local newspapers, posting fliers and encouraging towns and cities to hold a “Day Without Diamonds” to show solidarity with the Sierra Leoneans who have lost lives or limbs in the conflict.

In a longer article, Amnesty International stresses its aim isn’t to precipitate a consumer boycott of all diamonds because “the diamond trade from rebel-held areas of Sierra Leone forms only a small percentage of the overall worldwide trade.” However, its Web site’s most graphic features might suggest otherwise to consumers.

Conflict Diamond Legislation

Instead of a boycott of diamonds, Amnesty International urges consumers to support the Clean Diamonds Act, which U.S. Rep. Tony Hall (D-OH) proposed at the same press conference. In a sample letter to be sent to congressional representatives, the organization states “The Clean Diamonds Act is the only legislation that fully addresses all of the issues needed to prevent American consumers from unknowingly purchasing a blood diamond. There will be efforts by the diamond industry to introduce alternative legislation, but we urge you to support the Clean Diamond Act as the only bill that will close all loopholes.”

However, a comparison of Hall’s proposed bill and the diamond industry’s draft legislation, introduced in January by the World Diamond Council, shows the bills are nearly identical, at least in their draft forms. Hall’s proposal, not introduced at press time, is summarized on his Web site, www.house.gov/ tonyhall. Among the two proposals’ similarities:

  • Both seek to ban diamonds from entering the U.S. unless the importing country has rough diamond controls in place.
  • Both ask President Bush to negotiate an international agreement designed to eliminate conflict diamonds.
  • Both call for an international system of controls on the import and export of rough diamonds, though the WDC draft is more specific on how such a system would work.
  • Both ask the president to oversee the ban, though the WDC summary is more specific in naming countries suspected of laundering diamonds and, thus, should be watched carefully. Hall’s bill asks for a specific presidential commission to develop a “clean diamond” label.
  • The WDC bill would authorize the U.S. Treasury Department to issue regulations to enforce the ban and compile a list of countries that have developed certification programs. The Hall summary assigns this duty to the president.
  • Both acknowledge the role the United Nations has played in suggesting an international certification program. The WDC additionally acknowledges the work of several other groups, including the Working Group on African Diamonds (also known as The Kimberley Process).
  • Both call for passage of their proposals by late summer.

Hall’s summary calls for the president to report annually to Congress on any technological advances that might permit the determination of a diamond’s origin or a foolproof marking process that would facilitate easy tracking of all diamonds. Thus far, the world’s most respected gemological organizations, including the Gemological Institute of America, say such technology does not exist.

After Hall announced his proposal, the World Diamond Council issued a press release cautioning that any bill to ban conflict diamonds must be careful not to hurt the interests of African countries such as Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, which depend heavily on diamond exports and are not involved in illicit diamond sales.

Ironically, as Hall was announcing his bill, WDC representatives were meeting with diamond producing, processing and importing countries worldwide to work out technical details for an international certification program to stop the flow of the illegal stones (see related story on this page).

– by Peggy Jo Donahue


Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications