Brussels Unveils Ban on African Blood Diamonds


By Leyla Linton

August 9, 2002

Diamonds that fuel armed conflicts would be banned from the European Union under strict rules outlined yesterday.

The European Commission unveiled the first far-reaching plans to outlaw imports of diamonds without a certificate proving they are not "blood diamonds" - those coming from parts of the world where they are used to bankroll wars.

The ban, which would apply to rough diamonds imported for processing and polishing, is likely to have a serious impact on London and the Belgian port of Antwerp, home to more than 80 per cent of the worldwide trade in rough diamonds. An effective ban on such diamonds would deprive rebel groups of income used to finance conflicts in countries including Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It would help also the legitimate diamond market, which is vital for some of Africa's poorest countries.

Global Witness, a non-government organisation that campaigns against blood diamonds, says the Commission's proposals are stricter than the Kimberley Process, an international certification system already agreed on but not yet implemented by more than 30 governments.

Controls in place in some countries require diamond imports to be accompanied by a document showing only the most recent country of export. Traders in blood diamonds exploit this loophole and conceal the country of origin by channelling the stones via other countries.

Under the Kimberley Process, likely to come into force by the end of the year, shipments of diamonds would be sealed in containers resistant to tampering. Re -export certificates would be issued for each subsequent movement of the stones until they were cut into finished jewels. Anthonius de Vries of the European Commission said: "Traceability is the catchword here. It will be practically impossible for a fraudster to sell his diamonds."

Legitimate producers and traders have agreed to regulate themselves against illegal trading, which could trigger a consumer boycott. Each sale of diamonds will also be accompanied by a warranty on the invoice stating that the stones are not being sold to finance conflicts. The Commission would require firms to support these warranties with evidence.

Alex Yearsley of Global Witness said: "We hope the Commission proposals will go through. We think they will go a long way towards stopping the conflict diamond trade."

Blood diamonds are estimated to make up about 4 per cent of the global diamond trade, which is worth more than $ 7bn (pounds 4.5bn) annually. All 15 EU states will have to back the Commission proposals before they become law.

More Information on the Kimberley Process
More Information Diamonds in Conflict

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