UK: Amnesty warns lovers – Watch out for conflict diamonds this Valentine's Day

A recent survey by Amnesty International and Global Witness revealed that UK diamond retailers are failing to provide consumers with assurances that the diamonds they sell are not "conflict diamonds" - those mined in countries like the Congo and Sierra Leone, where profits were used to arm militias that have killed, raped and mutilated millions of people.

A second survey found retailers and suppliers in Australia and Europe to be no better: Amnesty found that fewer than one in five companies surveyed in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland could provide a meaningful account of their policy to prevent the trade in diamonds from regions of conflict.

The surveys show that almost two years after the diamond industry agreed to a system of self-regulation to prevent the trade in diamonds from regions of conflict, retailers in the UK and elsewhere are still failing to live up to their promises.

Amnesty International members around the UK visited over 330 high-street shops and questioned staff about their policy on conflict diamonds.

  • Nearly half (46 per cent) could not provide a copy of their company policy on conflict diamonds, with over a fifth (22 per cent) explicitly stating that they had no policy on the issue
  • Only 38 per cent of salespeople said that they had received training about conflict diamonds
  • 59 per cent of UK retailers failed even to respond to letters to Head Office requesting written information about company policy on conflict diamonds, including major UK diamond jewellery retailers like Asprey, Theo Fennell and Debenhams

The survey shows that the diamond industry has failed to adequately implement a voluntary system of self- regulation launched in January 2003.

The system requires companies to adopt codes of conduct, including a system of written warranties, for all buyers and sellers of diamonds in order to support the international Kimberley Process Certification Scheme preventing the trade in conflict diamonds.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

"The trade in conflict diamonds in countries like Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone has already led to the destruction of nations and has cost millions of lives.

"Yet the diamond industry is not taking the issue of conflict diamonds seriously enough. Governments must step in and audit companies to ensure that diamonds are not funding conflict or human rights abuses.

"Consumers can help put pressure on the industry. If you’re buying a diamond for your Valentine, demand an assurance that it’s clean. Diamonds may be expensive, but they needn’t cost people’s lives."

Amnesty International is calling on governments in the Kimberley Process to ensure that the diamond industry fully implements the code of conduct to which it agreed in January 2003.

Governments, including the UK, must carry out rigorous auditing and inspections of companies to ensure the industry is implementing the regulations it has committed to and report back in 2005.

As well as visiting shops, Amnesty International and Global Witness also wrote to over 80 major diamond jewellery retailers in the UK and US.

The main findings include the following:

  • Out of 85 companies that were sent letters requesting written information about their policies, 48 (56%) failed to respond including major diamond jewellery retailers like Asprey, Theo Fennell and Debenhams in the UK, and Costco Whole Sale Corporation, T.J.Maxx and Kmart in the US.
  • 32 out of the 37 companies that responded (86%) are implementing the system of warranties and have a policy to prevent dealing in conflict diamonds. However, 30 of the companies responding (81%) did not provide adequate details on how the system of warranties is being implemented and audited.

Faithless frontman Maxi Jazz has also lent his support to Amnesty International’s campaign. He said:

"Millions have died for the sake of bling. It’s Africans who have paid the heaviest price for our diamonds. The diamond industry needs cleaning up and leaving the trade to do it themselves is madness. It just doesn’t work."

Read the Amnesty/Global Witness report (pdf)

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