Hall Praises Congress for Provision Barring Conflict Diamond

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Rep. Tony P. Hall, D-Ohio, praised Congress for including a provision aimed at ending the wars over diamonds in Africa in the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriation for 2001.

The bill, which is expected to win passage by the House of Representatives late today, includes a provision authored by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire) which bars diamond imports from rebel-held areas of Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo – and from nations involved in smuggling conflict diamonds from these areas (Liberia, Burkina Faso and Ivory Cost).

“This should lend U.S. muscle to the job of choking blood diamonds out of the market,” Hall said. “I am disappointed that the Clinton Administration ran out the clock on a more comprehensive solution and hope that will be included before this bill is signed into law.” The Administration belatedly agreed to accept a compromise – which has the support of human-rights advocates, American jewelers, Senator Gregg and others – too late to include it in the CJS Appropriation bill.

The compromise, which Hall introduced today as the Conflict Diamonds Elimination Act, HR 5564, would prohibit diamond imports unless they came from the “clean stream.” In July, the diamond industry agreed to establish this clean stream by tracking a diamond from mines to cutting centers and ensuring that diamonds from conflict zones are never cut into gemstones. Its plan has won support of African nations, the United States, Britain, a U.S. campaign launched by more than 70 organizations and led by Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty International, and World Vision, and others.

“When American consumers figure out they have underwritten so much of the war in Africa, they are going to be outraged. Just look at their attitudes toward fur once they learned how much blood was in that industry’s hand,” Hall said. Americans buy 65 percent of the world’s diamonds. “If that fury turns into a boycott of diamonds, stable democracies like South Africa, whose economy depends on the legitimate trade in diamonds, will be devastated. The diamond industry and — until just hours ago, the Administration – have been far too cavalier about responding to this problem.

“The time for international conferences and talk is past. Today, brutal rebels in Sierra Leone, Angola and the DRC will $37 million selling stolen diamonds. Today, Congress has taken the first step toward stopping these blood-soaked profits from continuing to mount,” Hall said. “I hope it will be followed by however many steps are needed to end this trade.”

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