First Congressional Action on Conflict Diamonds is Passed

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(Rapaport…October 27, 2000) On Thursday night, October 26, the House of Representatives passed the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriation bill for 2001. The bill included a provision authored by Senator Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire) which bans diamond imports from rebel-held areas of Sierra Leone, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. The Gregg Provision appears in Section 406 of the bill. U.S. customs was involved in helping draft the law.

This new provision in this bill marks the first congressional action on this conflict diamonds. However, Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio) had hoped that a substitute endorsed by the diamond and jewelry industry and a human rights-coalition of more than 70 respected organizations — led by Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty International and World Vision — would win passage.

The compromise, which Hall introduced on October 26 as the Conflict Diamonds Elimination Act, HR 5564, would prohibit diamond imports unless they came from the “clean stream.” The amendment, sponsored by Hall, would give the diamond industry one year to implement a plan to track diamonds from their country of origin to the cutting centers. After they are mined, the diamonds would be wrapped in tamper-proof, numbered packages and logged into a database. Each time a package crosses a border that too would be logged.

In his remarks to Congress, Hall cites an editorial in The Washington Post that explains the premise is that cutting centers could refuse to accept diamonds from conflict areas. Jewelers could buy from responsible cutting centers with a clear conscience and the whole industry would avoid a consumer boycott. Countries that fail to comply with the monitoring in a year’s time will face sanctions.

The Administration accepted the Hall’s compromise on October 26, but it was too late to be included in the bill. Hall, in his remarks to Congress, says that it is still not too late for Congress to approve the provision. It is his understanding that the President will veto the bill. “Should the bill be returned to Congress I urge my colleagues to include the provision in the revised bill.”

Text of Conflict Diamond Provision – the Gregg provision

Section 406 in the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriation for 2001

Sec. 406. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this or any other Act may be used to allow for the entry into or withdrawal from warehouse for consumption in the United States of diamonds if the country of origin in which such diamonds were mined (as evidenced by a legible certificate of origin) is the Republic of Sierra Leone, the Republic of Liberia, the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the Republic of Angola with the exception of diamonds certified by the lawful governments of the Republic of Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the Republic of Angola.

Statement of Managers –

Sec. 406. The conference agreement includes section 406, proposed in the Senate-report amendment as section 409, prohibiting the use of funds in this or any other Act to allow entry of diamonds into the United Sates if they were mined in certain countries, unless certain documentation is provided. The House bill did not include a provision on this matter.

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