Human Rights Groups Announce Consumer Campaign Against Conflict Diamonds

February 15, 2001

Human Rights Groups Announce Consumer Campaign Against Conflict Diamonds

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 campaign is directed at consumers. The key elements of the campaign can be viewed online at www.amnestyusa.org/diamonds/index.html.

Among the campaign's components is an online video imitating the De Beers' "Shadows" ad campaign, but calling consumers' attention to conflict diamonds instead. As one hand starts to slip a diamond ring on another hand, the scene changes and becomes shadowy figures who ultimately cut off the hand of a prisoner, in graphic reference to the worst of human rights abuses committed in Sierra Leone in the fight over control of diamonds there.

AI encourages a grass roots effort to get the word out about conflict diamonds. Its 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, AI stresses its aim isn't to precipitate a consumer boycott of all diamonds, "as 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 who view them.

Instead of a boycott of diamonds, AI urges consumers to support Rep. Tony Hall's (D-OH) proposed legislation, The Clean Diamonds Act, which Hall announced at the same press conference. In a sample letter to be sent to congressional representatives, AI 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." But a comparison of Hall's proposed bill and the diamond industry's draft legislation, introduced last month by the World Diamond Council in London, shows that, in fact, the bills are nearly identical (see related story), at least in their current draft forms.

- by Peggy Jo Donahue