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
- 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