African Diamond Producing Nations Criticize Tactics of Human Rights Groups

February 19, 2001

African Diamond Producing Nations Criticize Tactics of Human Rights Groups

A group of African government representatives issued a statement Friday saying a new consumer campaign against conflict diamonds organized by Amnesty International and other human rights groups (see related story) is "counter productive and potentially damaging to the African countries that depend on legitimate diamond exports." The group also says, "the material being circulated threatens to undermine confidence in diamonds generally rather than focusing on the specific problem before us."

The African group – which includes representatives of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana – says it was unhelpful for the human rights groups to regard the conflict diamonds legislative proposal announced by Rep. Tony Hall (D-OH) as a "silver bullet" that would resolve the problem (see related story). "In fact, the conflict diamonds problem is complex. Legislation by the U.S. must be carefully crafted and the views of the non-U.S. parties considered," the group says in the statement. "In attempting to compel support for a single legislative proposal, these groups are creating needless confrontation. Cooperation among all interested parties would be much more helpful."

The African group met with other nations that produce, process and import diamonds, as well as the World Diamond Council, which represents the diamond and jewelry industry worldwide. The meeting, one of an ongoing series of meetings known as The Kimberley Process, was held in Windhoek, Namibia. Officials from 26 governments established a joint task force with WDC to complete technical work on an international certification system for rough diamonds.

The Kimberley Process will continue at another meeting in Belgium in April, where the group will examine existing national import and export controls on rough diamonds. After the Windhoek meeting, WDC chairman Eli Izhakoff said, "What has been accomplished here ... is very promising. We must also be aware that, even when a certification system is established, our work will not be done. Lasting success depends on sound implementation and continued scrutiny. The industry is committed to this effort over the long run."

- by Peggy Jo Donahue