For Immediate Release Contact: Suzanne Trimel at Amnesty: 212-633-4150
Thursday, February 22, 2007 Corinna Gilfillan at Global Witness: 202-721-5670
NEW SURVEY SHOWS U.S. JEWELRY RETAILERS ARE NOT DOING ENOUGH TO COMBAT BLOOD DIAMONDS, SAY GLOBAL WITNESS AND AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA
(NEW YORK) -With the Oscar night ceremony drawing renewed attention to blood diamonds, a new survey by Global Witness and Amnesty International USA shows the $33 billion-a-year American jewelry retail industry is failing to take adequate measures to help consumers avoid conflict diamonds. The Oscar-nominated movie "Blood Diamond" whose stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou are best actor contenders, illustrates the horrors of a brutal civil war in Sierra Leone funded by the trade in diamonds.
In a survey conducted between December 2006 and February 2007, the human rights groups surveyed the 37 jewelry retailers listed by National Jeweler magazine as the $100 Million Supersellers. The main findings include the following:
- Half of these leading American jewelry retailers failed to respond to the requests to provide information about their policies on blood diamonds.
- Fifty six percent of those who did respond reported having no auditing procedures in place to combat blood diamonds, despite the recommendation to do so by the trade association Jewelers of America.
- Fifty seven percent of the top jewelers do not have any public information posted on their websites about their policies on blood diamonds.
The survey also noted that a few industry leaders such as Helzberg Diamond Shops, Sterling (Signet) and Tiffany & Co. have taken stronger measures to combat conflict diamonds, including third-party auditing.
The survey is being released amid new reports of diamond smuggling and as blood diamonds from West Africa are reaching the international diamond marketplace. On February 4, 2007, two men in Tucson, Arizona, were arrested for smuggling 11,000 carats of diamonds from Africa in violation of the U.S. Clean Diamond Trade Act. These and other reports of illegal diamond trafficking from Zimbabwe, Venezuela, and Ivory Coast clearly highlight the loopholes in the Kimberley Process, the government-run diamond certification scheme designed to eliminate the trade in conflict diamonds. Blood diamonds have fuelled conflict in Angola, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Liberia, leading to millions of deaths and egregious human rights abuses.
"Americans buy half of the diamond jewelry sold worldwide-$33 billion a year in U.S. sales," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "We feel that this industry has an obligation-and consumers should demand-that the diamonds that are bought and sold are conflict-free."
"It is completely reasonable to demand that this industry give consumers adequate assurances that the diamonds they buy are conflict-free, given the devastating human toll of blood diamonds," says Charmian Gooch, Founding Director of Global Witness. "With such huge profits, retailers should be willing to do more to solve this problem."
To help ensure that the diamond industry is living up to the necessary standards, Amnesty International and Global Witness are calling for the following action:
- All sectors of the diamond industry, including the diamond jewelry retail sector, should implement third-party audit measures and responsible sourcing policies;
- The U.S. and other governments should carry out stricter oversight of the diamond industry and strengthen and improve enforcement of the Kimberley Process and the Clean Diamond Trade Act.
- Jewelry retailers should make their policies on conflict diamonds prominently accessible on their websites.
"Blood Diamond," directed by Ed Zwick, is set during Sierra Leone's civil war; In addition to Hounsou and DiCaprio, the film features Jennifer Connelly, who is Amnesty International USA's Ambassador for Human Rights Education and has shot Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to help build awareness of the conflict diamond problem.
(To request copies of the full report, contact Suzanne Trimel at Amnesty International USA, [email protected], or Corinna Gilfillan at Global Witness, [email protected] or go to www.blooddiamondaction.org)
Global Witness campaigns to achieve real change by highlighting the links between the exploitation of natural resources and the funding of conflict and corruption. Through a combination of covert investigations and targeted advocacy, Global Witness has changed the way the world thinks about the extraction and trading of natural resources, and the devastating impact their unsustainable exploitation can have upon development, human rights and stability. Global Witness was co-nominated for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for its work on conflict diamonds and awarded the Gleitsman Foundation Prize for international activism in May 2005.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 1.8 million members worldwide. Amnesty International undertakes research and action focused on preventing and ending grave human rights abuses, including violations of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights.