Congress Passes Act Giving
Customs Service Kimberley Authority
President signs bill into law April 25
The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Clean Diamond Trade Act, H.R. 1584, on April 8, with Senate approval three days later. The new law finally gives authority to the U.S. Customs Service to ban non-Kimberley Process-certified diamonds from entering the country. Though the Kimberley Process certification program went into effect worldwide Jan. 1, the U.S. Customs Service has been prevented from using it on imports of rough diamonds because it needed the law to have enforcement authority.
The Kimberley Process, approved late last year by 50 nations, is designed to prevent illicit diamonds used to finance criminal acts from infiltrating the legitimate diamond supply. Certificates guaranteeing that rough diamonds come from legitimate sources are the key to the system. The participating countries agreed to turn away any rough diamond not carrying the certificates, which are issued by government-approved authorities.
In a joint statement, Eli Izhakoff, chairman of the World Diamond Council, and Matthew Runci, president and CEO of Jewelers of America and executive director of WDC, say: Passage of [the Clean Diamond Act] with overwhelming bipartisan support vindicates the efforts of many interested parties in government, humanitarian organizations and industry who have worked hard to rid the world of conflict diamonds. As the worlds largest importer of diamonds, the U.S. has a particularly critical role to play in enforcing the new system.
Amnesty International, a human rights organization active in the fight against conflict diamonds, says in a prepared statement: The Clean Diamond Trade Act, represents the fruition of over three years of efforts by Congress, the executive [branch], non-governmental organizations and the U.S. diamond industry to choke off a key funding source for some of the worlds most brutal regimes, rebel groups and extremist armed networks who use the resources to finance egregious human rights abuses.
The Clean Diamond Trade Act will enforce the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which will ensure that diamonds entering the United States are legally mined and traded, have not funded the commission of human rights abuses linked to wars, or financed groups like al Qaeda.
U.S. diamond exporters have had to comply with the new system since Jan. 1 and are required to have U.S. Kimberley certificates on all overseas shipments of rough diamonds. These export certificates are issued by the U.S. Kimberley Processing Authority, made up of Judge Herman S. Klarsfeld, general counsel to the Diamond Dealers Club; Cecilia L. Gardner, executive director and general counsel of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee; and Runci. The U.S. Census Bureau provides official automated export system numbers for each certificate to validate them, says Gardner.
by Peggy Jo Donahue