14 February 2007
Why Diamonds this Valentine's Day May Not Be the Perfect Gift of Love
Amidst new reports of diamond smuggling into the U.S., Global Witness calls on consumers to do their research before buying diamond jewellery this Valentine's Day. Consumers must ask questions when they shop for diamonds to try to ensure the gems they are buying are conflict-free (see below for four simple questions to help combat conflict diamonds).
On February 4, U.S. federal agents arrested two men in Tucson, Arizona on charges of smuggling 11,000 carats of illicit rough diamonds from Africa.1 The two men, who were attending the Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Showcase, were found in possession of the smuggled diamonds and are being charged with violating the U.S. Clean Diamond Trade Act.2
Conflict diamonds mined in the rebel-held areas of Ivory Coast, in West Africa, are also currently reaching the international diamond market, according to the United Nations. Furthermore, there are credible reports of diamond smuggling from Zimbabwe into South Africa, in violation of the Kimberley Process certification scheme. Venezuelan rough diamonds are also being illegally smuggled to the U.S., Belgium, Guyana, and other countries.3
"Consumers have the power to help prevent blood diamonds from reaching retail stores by demanding that their diamonds are clean," said Global Witness Director Charmian Gooch. "Recent reports of smuggling and violations of the Kimberley Process certification scheme show that governments must strengthen their oversight of the diamond industry as a whole. The February 4 arrests are a welcome step in the right direction, but consumers have every right to be concerned about whether the diamonds they buy are conflict-free."
The trade in blood diamonds has already led to devastating wars in Sierra Leone, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Liberia, and over 4 million people have died as a result of these conflicts.
Global Witness and Amnesty International urge consumers to ask jewellers the following questions when purchasing diamonds:
1 - Do you know where your diamonds come from?
2 - Can I see a copy of your company's policy on conflict diamonds?
3 - Can you show me a written guarantee from your diamond suppliers that states your diamonds are conflict-free?
4 - How can I be sure that none of your jewelry contains conflict diamonds?
For more information please contact:
Corinna Gilfillan in Washington DC: +1 202 725 8705; +1 202 721 5670
Annie Dunnebacke in London: +44 207 561 6397; +44 7703 108 401 or [email protected]
Please see the website www.blooddiamondaction.org
Global Witness campaigns to achieve real change by highlighting the links between the exploitation of natural resources, 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 leading work on ‘conflict diamonds' and awarded the Gleitsman Foundation prize for international activism in May 2005.
Notes to the Editor:
1 News Release, February 8 2007, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Tucson ICE agents seize cache of smuggled diamonds
2 The US Clean Diamond Trade Act was enacted in 2003 to stop the trade in conflict diamonds and to implement the Kimberley Process. The Kimberley Process is a government-run scheme that aims to prevent the trade in conflict diamonds through the establishment of an import-export control regime.
3 Please see report by Partnership Africa Canada, The Lost World, Diamond Mining and Smuggling in Venezuela, 2006.