Press Release / Jan. 25, 2000

Why there should not be an embargo on all Angolan diamonds

Global Witness (1) following research on the Angolan diamond trade believes that:
1. It does appear that the Angolan Government has listened to criticisms about serious loopholes in their operation of the Certificate of Origin system which came into force following the UN embargo on unofficial Angolan diamonds (UNSCRes 1173) of 1st July 1998. But it has taken over 18 months to do this and in the meantime the loopholes undermined international efforts to implement the UN embargo.

2. The Angolan Government appears to have focused upon producing a Certificate of Origin (CO) that tightens up on previous loopholes (2) but the CO will only be as secure as the systems around it and currently there is confusion about how the systems are controlled.

3. The new Certificate of Origin, yet to be introduced, is part of a wider and seemingly genuine review of the Angolan diamond sector being carried out by the Angolan government. This review focuses on increasing revenue to the State, and has already been reported on in the diamond trade press. It is an initiative which, if carried through, is to be welcomed.

4. However for controls to work the Angolan Government needs to publicly clarify the following points about the CO system:
- which is the lead body, is it the Ministry of Commerce or Endiama? And what are the roles of the National Bank of Angola (BNA) and the Ministry of Mines and Geology? Currently there is serious lack of clarity between these players as to how the system works.
- who is ultimately responsible for ensuring the effectiveness of the control system?
- what steps have been taken to ensure that the officially licensed buyers are not buying Unita or other unofficial goods, which could then be acquiring official COs? This is a critical point.
- Can the Angolan Government confirm that all diamond related payments will be made through the BNA?

These points need to be urgently addressed by the Angolan Government if the international community is to be able to have any confidence in diamonds traded from Angola. Global Witness would urge that the Government maintain their momentum on reforms and move on the points detailed above within the next two to three months. Their willingness to do so is surely the best test of their intent.

It is vital for the entire diamond trade that countries emerging from conflict, or that are in conflict, seek to control diamond production. It is also vital that importing governments and the commercial sector of the diamond industry get involved. The role of the commercial sector is absolutely key. But, to date, it has only reacted to pressure from non-governmental organisations, governments and the UN, and has significantly failed to take the initiative to address the problem of conflict diamonds, although it has known about them for ten years. De Beers, in particular, has the capacity to take a lead in the urgently needed industry reforms to stop diamonds from funding conflict in countries such as Sierra Leone and Angola. But so far it has failed to do so.

Notes to Editor: 1. Global Witness is a British based non-governmental organisation which focuses on the links between environmental and human rights abuses, especially the impacts of natural resource exploitation upon countries and their people. 2. Previous loopholes included: no printed name under the signature; repeated failure to supply lists of names of officials authorised to sign; easily forgeable documents; conflicting official stamps and failure to provide authorised examples to importing authorities.