'Curse' of blood diamonds still entering global supply chains

Rebecca Ellinor Tyler is former editor of Supply Management
20 October 2015

Consumers could be buying diamonds that have financed human rights’ abuses because not enough is done to prevent the gems from entering global supply chains, according to Amnesty International.

A report by the charity, Chains of Abuse: The global diamond supply chain and the case of the Central African Republic, focuses on the diamond supply chain and looks at human rights abuses and other unlawful and unethical activities linked to the extraction of and trade in rough diamonds. It examines one diamond-producing country – the Central African Republic (CAR)–  that has been embroiled in conflict since late 2012 and moves along the supply chain to the international diamond trading centres of Dubai and Antwerp.

Based on both desk and field research, the NGO concluded groups responsible for atrocities including summary executions, rape, child labour, enforced disappearances and unlawful and unethical activities including looting and tax abuse are continuing to take advantage of the country’s rich natural resources. Some of them profit from the diamond trade by controlling mine sites and ‘taxing’ or extorting ‘protection’ money from miners and traders.

Amnesty International believes some of the country’s traders have purchased diamonds without adequately investigating whether they have funded armed groups. It also documents the inspection gaps in diamond trading centres that make it possible for blood diamonds to be traded and sold globally.

The report further states that the Kimberley Process export ban - an inter-governmental diamond supply chain initiative established in 2003 in an effort to stop the international trade in ‘conflict diamonds’ - did not prohibit the trade of the stones within CAR.

Amnesty International called for a process that will allow the people of CAR to benefit from the diamonds held in the capital Bangui, but that will sanction companies where there is evidence that they knowingly purchased diamonds that funded armed groups or failed to carry out reasonable checks to prevent their business operations supporting armed groups.

The UN Security Council has specifically stated that supporting illegal armed groups through the exploitation of CAR’s diamonds undermines peace, security and stability and expressed its intention to impose targeted sanctions against those involved.

“If companies have bought blood diamonds, they must not be allowed to profit from them,” said Lucy Graham, legal adviser in Amnesty International’s business and human rights team. “The government should confiscate any blood diamonds, sell them and use the money for the public benefit. The people of CAR have a right to profit from their own natural resources. As the country seeks to rebuild, it needs its diamonds to be a blessing, not a curse.”

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