Conflict Diamond Bill Compromise Proposed

November 2, 2000

Conflict Diamond Bill Compromise Proposed

Congressman Tony Hall (D-OH) introduced a compromise to recent proposed conflict diamond legislation Oct. 26 in the House of Representatives. Hall hopes his newest proposal, the Conflict Diamond Elimination Act of 2000 (H.R. 5564), can substitute for a recent provision by Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) that bans the import of conflict diamonds.

Last week, both houses passed the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriation for 2001, which included Gregg's provision in Section 406. The provision states no funds made available by any legislative act will be used to allow entry into the U.S. of non-government certified diamonds from Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo or Angola. However, due to a disagreement about another part of the appropriation bill relating to immigration, President Clinton says he will veto it.

Hall hopes Clinton's threatened veto will allow time for the Conflict Diamond Elimination Act to replace Gregg's provision before the bill becomes law. According to Hall, the administration accepted his compromise too late for it to be put into the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriation bill. Hall's compromise requires the U.S. to only import diamonds from countries that implement a system of controls on the export and import of rough diamonds or participate in an international program that regulates the export and import of rough diamonds. Hall's act gives the industry and diamond exporting countries up to one year to implement import and export controls before it will take effect. According to Hall, his act is supported by human-rights organizations and American jewelers.

This is not the first time a provision about conflict diamond imports has been added to an unrelated bill. In July, the House of Representatives passed a bill to fund the Department of the Treasury and general government operations. Attached to it was a section requiring the U.S. Customs Service to enforce the U.N. Security Council's 18-month ban on Sierra Leone's diamonds and also to block trade in diamonds from Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. However, the section was removed when the bill was sent to the Senate in exchange for the hearings about conflict diamonds on Sept. 13 with the House Ways and Means Committee.

- by Julia M. Duncan