Press Release / July 9, 2004

The Kimberley Process Gets Some Teeth: The Republic of Congo is Removed from the Kimberley Process for Failing to Combat the Trade in Conflict Diamonds

Global Witness strongly commends action taken today by the Chair of the Kimberley Process to remove the Republic of Congo (ROC) from the Kimberley Process, the international governmental certification scheme aimed at ending the trade in conflict diamonds.(1) The Canadian government announced today that the ROC is no longer a participant due to its consistent failure to comply with the Kimberley Process in preventing conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond trade.

“Removing the Republic of Congo is a major step towards ensuring that the Kimberley Process is working effectively and has teeth,” said Corinna Gilfillan of Global Witness. “This decision sets an important precedent for how to deal with countries and diamond traders that are not complying with the Kimberley Process.”

The Republic of Congo, a major hub for illicit diamond trading, was admitted into the Kimberley Process in 2003 because it had passed regulations to implement the agreement’s minimum requirements. However, criteria for membership only focused on whether countries met the requirements on paper and did not assess how these regulations were implemented and enforced.(2)

The decision to remove the ROC was based on the findings of a review mission sent by the Kimberley Process to the ROC in May 2004 to assess its compliance with the certification scheme.(3) Led by the South African government, the review mission found that the ROC’s system of controls were inadequate, poorly enforced and therefore unable to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond trade. The mission’s findings confirmed well-documented evidence of the ROC’s role as a centre for rampant diamond smuggling.

“The Canadian government’s strong leadership on this issue has been critical to ensuring the credibility of the Kimberley Process and the protection of the legitimate diamond trade,” said Gilfillan. However the next few months will be a key test of whether the Kimberley Process and the diamond industry will ensure that the millions of dollars of smuggled Angolan and DRC diamonds go through legitimate channels rather than a new smugglers’ paradise.

Editor Notes:
(1) The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is an international governmental certification scheme aimed at preventing the trade in conflict diamonds. Launched in January 2003, the scheme requires governments and the diamond industry to implement import/export control regimes on rough diamonds to prevent conflict diamonds from fuelling conflicts and human rights abuses. The KPCS was negotiated by governments, civil society organisations and the diamond trade, in response to civil society campaigning against the trade in conflict diamonds.
(2) When launched in January 2003, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme had no systematic monitoring mechanism to evaluate how countries’ diamond control systems are working in practice. At the Kimberley Process Plenary Meeting in October 2003, some progress was made to address this issue by the adoption of a voluntary peer review system.
(3) Under the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, review missions can be sent where “credible indications of non-compliance” have been identified with a country, with the consent of the country involved. The review mission to the Republic of Congo was done with the consent of the ROC government and was comprised of experts from governments, NGOs and industry. It focused on examining the discrepancies between the ROC’s rough diamond exports and the ROC’s known production capacity and evaluating the ROC’s internal system of controls to implement the Kimberley Process.

For further information, please contact:
Corinna Gilfillan in Washington DC: +1 202 721 5600
Alex Yearsley in London: +44 7773 812901 or +44 207 561 6397