November 6, 2001
De Beers, Tony Hall Address Al Qaeda Links to Diamonds
News that the al Qaeda terrorist network raised money and hid assets through the sale of rebel-mined diamonds in Sierra Leone (see related article) prompted swift responses from two players in the effort to rid the world of conflict diamonds.
The De Beers Group and its sales and marketing arm, the Diamond Trading Co., issued a statement "utterly condemning the way in which these organizations are preying on otherwise legitimate industries to further their criminal and murderous activities." De Beers, while reasserting it hasn't bought diamonds from Sierra Leone since 1985, stated its continued active involvement in working on an international certification program to stop the flow of conflict diamonds. The program is being finalized by nations taking part in the Kimberley Process. De Beers called on the nations involved to swiftly complete the certification program and put it in place.
De Beers also reaffirmed its support for U.S. legislation that would prohibit importing diamonds unless the exporting countries have a system of controls for rough diamonds (such as the certification program being crafted by the Kimberley Process).
Passing this legislation should be a top priority for Congress this session, U.S. Rep. Tony Hall (D-OH), issued a press statement on his Web site. Hall says all the conflict diamonds bills he introduced in the past two years were aimed at ending the terrorist money pipeline that new evidence shows is also being milked by al Qaeda. "I urge Congress to act immediately on legislation to right this wrong before more innocent people Africans or Americans suffer crimes funded in part by the Americans who buy the majority of the world's diamonds," says the statement.
Jewelers wishing to write to their elected representatives urging passage of the Clean Diamond Trade Act, H.R. 2722, and its Senate companion, S. 1084, can go to professionaljeweler.com's Conflict Diamond Archive, where there are links to sample letters and tips for contacting Congress on this issue.
In related news, on Nov. 5, an Interpol expert on a United Nations panel investigating illegal diamond dealing in Liberia affirmed conflict diamonds are likely an important channel for terrorists like the al Qaeda network looking to raise or transfer money. The U.N. Security Council met to review the panel's new report, which found widespread violations of U.N. sanctions on Liberia to curtail its diamond dealing with Sierra Leone rebels. The Security Council will meet again Nov. 7 to review the panel's findings.
Finally, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article today by columnist Laurel Wellman calling attention to the new link between al Qaeda and diamonds. Wellman voices support for the conflict diamonds legislation, but also suggests if it doesn't pass, consumers may not purchase diamonds this Christmas. "I know when I'm shopping for a new pendant, I'd like to be sure my dollars aren't going to pay for some terrorist cell's aviation-school graduation celebration," Wellman writes.
- by Peggy Jo Donahue