For IMMEDIATE Release
Curbing Trade in Diamonds Linked to Terrorism;
(WASHINGTON) - Legislation to curb international commerce in diamonds used by rebel groups and rogue nations to finance efforts to overthrow legitimate governments and subvert international peace efforts in warring regions was approved Tuesday by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Authored by U.S. Rep. Amo Houghton (R-NY) and supported by U.S. Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), the Clean Diamond Trade Act (H.R.1584) is expected to get the nod from the Senate and be signed into law by President George W. Bush.
The law will require all U.S. diamond imports and exports to be origin-certified by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which curtails commerce in diamonds from countries not participating in the program. Named for Kimberley, South Africa, location of the worlds largest diamond mine, the certification process requires every shipment of diamonds to be accompanied by a forgery-resistant document of origin. The new law will also require U.S. diamond dealers to keep records of all diamond shipments and make such records available to U.S. law enforcement authorities.
Consumers in the United States are the largest purchasers of diamonds in the world.
As a result of wars waged, in large part, for control of diamond mining areas, during the past decade, more than 3.5 million people have died in Sierra Leone, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and an additional 6.5 million have been driven from their homes.
"Thanks to the hard work of many here in Congress, the NGO community, the diamond industry, and the Administration, we finally have a comprehensive bill that gets at the huge problems caused by trade in conflict diamonds," said Congressman Houghton, a member of the House International Relations and Ways & Means Committees. "I'm hopeful that we can continue to work together and find ways to stamp out the illegal diamond trade," he added.
Violations of the act may result in substantial civil penalties, including a fine of as much as $10,000. Willful violations of the law are subject to criminal penalties including a fine of up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to 10 years for any officer, director, or agent of any corporation who knowingly participates in such violation.
"The commerce in conflict diamonds leads to systematic human rights violations and civil unrest," said Congressman Smith, a member of the House International Relations Committee.
"For too long the international community has looked the other way as rebel groups have used the profits from the sale of conflict diamonds to finance their weapons and further their efforts to overthrow legitimate governments," Smith added.