December 14, 1999
Congressmen Demand Diamond Boycott
After returning from a trip to Africa, two U.S. representatives held a press conference to demand an international boycott of "black-market" diamonds from war-torn African countries.
Rep. Tony Hall (D-OH), who last month introduced legislation requiring certificates of origin for diamonds imported to the U.S., and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) specifically called for a ban on diamonds exported from Sierra Leone without government-issued certificates, according to the Associated Press. The United Nations is sending peacekeeping forces to Sierra Leone to monitor a cease-fire, efforts the congressmen said will be useless if rebels there continue to sell diamonds for arms.
During the press conference, Hall and Wolf showed photos of mutilated children to illustrate the destruction of Sierra Leone's civil war. "The world looked the other way while revenues from diamond sales were used to butcher innocent civilians. This time we should not stand idly by," Wolf said.
Last month, a flurry of public announcements by human rights groups, the U.N. and De Beers denounced the purchase of diamonds from the rebel group UNITA in Angola, resulting in newspaper reports about "dirty diamonds." De Beers said it would review its diamond buying policies in other African regions where diamond sales have fueled unrest. (See related story.)
- by Stacey King