Conflict Diamonds Bill Introduced in Senate

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(Rapaport…March 20, 2002) The Clean Diamond Trade Act (S. 2027) was introduced to the Senate on March 18 by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Russell Feingold (D-Wisconsin). The bipartisan legislation would broaden the definition of conflict diamonds and work to combat their importation into the U.S. The U.S. House of Representatives passed their version of the bill in December.

“It is clear that those responsible for the conflict diamond trade will stop at nothing in their efforts to circumvent the international efforts currently being negotiated,” Durbin said. “Now is the time to close the deal and secure an effective agreement that will help put an end to the atrocities that have devastated the lives of so many innocent men, women and children.”

In addition to those diamonds used to fund civil wars in African nations such as Sierra Leone and Angola, the Senate bill would broaden the definition to also include diamonds traded by terrorists and those who use the diamond trade to fund and commit human rights abuses against unarmed citizens. The expanded definition is a response to recent allegations that Osama bin Laden used the diamond trade to fund his terrorist activities as well as corruption in other African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

If passed by the Senate, the bill would then go to a congressional committee for approval, and back to congress for final passage before heading to the president’s desk for his signature.

The bill’s introduction to the Senate coincides with the current meeting of the Kimberley Process in Ottawa, Canada. On March 15, Durbin, DeWine, Feingold and Senate colleagues Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) wrote to President Bush to urge his administration to push for a strong and effective Kimberley Process agreement.

“We must take a strong stand that says to the world that this nation, which purchases the majority of the world’s diamonds, will not buy the diamonds that fund rebels and terrorists,” the senators wrote in their letter. “American consumers who purchase diamonds for an engagement, wedding, or anniversary, must be assured that they are buying a diamond from a legitimate, legal and responsible source.”

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