Rep. Tony Hall Introduces Clean Diamond Act

February 15, 2001

Rep. Tony Hall Introduces Clean Diamond Act

At a press conference announcing a human rights coalition's consumer campaign against conflict diamonds, Rep. Tony P. Hall (D-OH) and two other congressional representatives announced a new bill, the Clean Diamonds Act, meant to stop the trade in conflict diamonds. The bill, not yet introduced, is summarized on Rep. Hall's Web site, www.house.gov/tonyhall.

Hall says his new bill will impose civil and criminal penalties that "promise to be a greater deterrent than the draft legislation proposed by the [diamond] industry." However, when Professional Jeweler compared the World Diamond Council's draft legislation, which was introduced last month in London, with Hall's summary, it found the bills are, in fact, almost identical in their key areas. On the point Hall raised concerning civil and criminal penalties, the WDC's draft names a civil penalty of $250,000, while Hall's summary doesn't list a figure. Hall's proposal also calls for any contraband diamonds to be sold, with the proceeds going to USAID's War Victims Fund. The WDC's draft doesn't mention a beneficiary of contraband sales.

Among the two bills' similarities:

  • Both call for a ban on diamonds entering the U.S., unless the importing country has a system of rough diamond controls in place.
  • Both bills ask the president of the U.S. to negotiate an international agreement designed to eliminate conflict diamonds.
  • Both bills call for an international system of controls on the import and export of rough diamonds, though the WDC draft is more specific on how such a system would work.
  • Both bills ask the president of the U.S. to oversee the conflict diamond ban, though the WDC summary is more specific in naming countries that are suspected of laundering diamonds and thus should be watched carefully. Hall's bill, however, asks for a specific presidential commission to develop a "clean diamond" label.
  • The WDC draft bill authorizes the U.S. Treasury Dept. to issue regulations to enforce the import ban and compile a list of countries that have developed certification programs. The Hall summary gives this duty directly to the president.
  • Both bills acknowledge the role that the United Nations has played in suggesting an international certification program. The WDC additionally acknowledges the work of several other groups including the Working Group on African Diamonds (also known as "The Kimberley Process").
  • Both bills call for action on their proposals in approximately six months. Hall's summary wants the entire bill passed in six months; the WDC asks only that the president require an international agreement to eliminate conflict diamonds by Aug. 31, 2001.

Hall's summary continues to press for the president to report annually to congress on any technological advances that might permit the determination of a diamond's origin, or a foolproof marking process that would facilitate easy tracking of all diamonds. Thus far, the world's most respected gemological organizations, including the Gemological Institute of America, have testified that such technology does not exist.

The World Diamond Council issued a press release late on Wednesday stating it fully shares the goals of Hall's legislation, but Executive Director Matt Runci said he was still studying the bill for specifics. Runci also declared any bill to ban conflict diamonds must be careful not to hurt the interests of African countries such as Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, which depend heavily on diamond exports and are not involved in illicit diamond sales.

- by Peggy Jo Donahue