U.N. Experts Advocate Stricter Barriers for Conflict Diamonds

December 21, 2000

U.N. Experts Advocate Stricter Barriers for Conflict Diamonds

A United Nations expert panel released a report Dec. 20 that recommends the U.N. place an international embargo on all diamonds from Liberia and Gambia, similar to earlier embargoes on diamonds from Angola and Sierra Leone. Liberia doesn't have significant diamond mining and Gambia produces none, yet both countries have large exports of diamonds, alleged to be smuggled from Sierra Leone. Guinea was a third country named as being a major exporter of laundered diamonds.

The panel, headed by Cameroon's Martin Chungong Ayafor, consisted of arms and transportation experts, Canadian diamond expert Ian Smillie and representatives of Senegal and Interpol, the international police organization.

The group concluded that RUF, Sierra Leone's rebel force, continues to smuggle diamonds out of Sierra Leone with impunity. This is despite Sierra Leone's new certification system, which can't be fully effective while there's a lack of international certification controls in neighboring countries or in major diamond importing centers.

The report urged all diamond import and export countries to adopt a global certification system to track diamonds' origins, a program now being crafted by the gem and jewelry industry's World Diamond Council.

Until that program is fully in place, however, the U.N. panel urged the Security Council to require individual certification systems such as Sierra Leone's for all diamond exporting countries in West Africa, especially Guinea and the Cote D'Ivoire (to protect their indigenous diamond industries). If these countries haven't adopted certification programs within six months, the U.N. should impose an international embargo on them, too.

Further, the experts recommend all diamond importing countries pay special attention to any diamonds coming from Uganda, Central African Republic, Ghana, Namibia, Congo Brazzaville, Mali, Zambia and Burkina Faso. Invoices should be thoroughly checked and where there is doubt, parcels should be seized until facts are checked.

- by Peggy Jo Donahue