Human Rights Groups and WDC Urge U.S. to Enact Legislation

July 2, 2002

Human Rights Groups and WDC Urge U.S. to Enact Legislation

The Campaign To Eliminate Conflict Diamonds, a group of non-governmental humanitarian, human rights and religious organizations, and the World Diamond Council are pressing the government for prompt enactment of legislation enabling the U.S. to play an active role in halting international traffic in conflict diamonds.

In a joint memorandum, the coalition spelled out key principles its members say should be included in implementing legislation. These include permitting the import of diamonds and diamond jewelry only from countries that have controls in place to ensure conflict diamonds do not enter the legitimate trade.

"Action is necessary now," says Matthew Runci, president of Jewelers of America and executive director of WDC. "A global system to protect the legitimate diamond supply chain has taken shape. It is imperative that the United States, the world's largest importer of diamonds, play a significant role in implementing this system." Jewelers of America represents more than 10,000 U.S. retailers. The WDC was formed two years ago by diamond industry leaders to combat the conflict diamond problem.

"While we recognize that progress has been made through the Kimberley Process, effectively implementing legislation will be critical to ensure U.S. consumers are not subsidizing human rights abuses through their diamond purchases. A broad coalition of more than 100 groups are mobilizing to pressure Congress and the Bush administration to pass legislation that effectively implements the Kimberley Process and closes the remaining loopholes of the international agreement," says Adotei Akwei, Africa Advocacy Director for Amnesty International, USA. "Failure to act immediately will provide an opportunity for groups like al Qaeda and others to exploit resources in order to commit acts of violence and egregious human rights violations around the world."

For two years, nations prominent in the mining, processing, and trading of diamonds have participated in U.N.-sanctioned negotiations called the Kimberley Process. The goal has been to create a comprehensive system barring from international commerce diamonds usurped by outlaws and rebels, particularly in parts of Africa. Profits from that illicit trade have underwritten continued combat and terrorist activities.

The Kimberley Process, which has grown to include three dozen countries, concluded its principal work in March. The regimen it designed is to take effect at the end of this year. But the impact of the system depends on enactment of sound implementing legislation by the relevant countries. While the Clinton and Bush Administrations participated in the Kimberley Process, the executive branch and Congress have not yet gotten behind specific legislation the coalition considers effective.

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