‘Conflict diamonds’ bill introduced

”Conflict diamonds” legislation that has the support of the U.S. jewelry industry has been introduced in Congress.

U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) introduced the ”Conflict Diamonds Act 2001” on April 26. The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

The bill’s intent is to prohibit the direct or indirect import of diamonds into the U.S. from Angola and Sierra Leone, as well as Liberia and other African countries that have been associated with the illegal conflict diamonds trade.

Under the bill, diamonds from these countries will be banned from entering the U.S. until the countries agree to have their diamonds undergo a yet-to-be-determined international certification process. Those who knowingly violate the import ban would be subject to criminal and civil penalties under U.S. Customs law. The Customs Service would be authorized to seize illicit shipments.

”The purpose of the Conflict Diamonds Act of 2001 is to eliminate the illegal diamond trade that has fueled violent conflicts in the African nations of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo, Angola, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso,’ Gregg told the Senate as he introduced the legislation. ”The sale of illicit diamonds has allowed criminal gangs like the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone to buy arms and supplies in an effort to expand their influence. In the process, they have inflicted unspeakable pain, including torture and amputation, on the innocent people they encounter.”

Gregg continued, ”The Conflict Diamonds Act of 2001 bans the importation into the United States of diamonds from countries that fail to observe an effective diamond control system. Under this legislation, no diamond that has ever been in the possession of the RUF or any other rebel group will be allowed to enter the United States. This includes diamonds that pass through another country for cutting or setting.”

The bill was negotiated with several diamond and jewelry industry associations. Jewelers of America (JA) came out in support of the bill.

”[Sen. Gregg’s] bill will create a potent mechanism for assuring that diamonds imported by the United States are free of taint. It will also foster a global regulatory system to protect the international supply chain,” JA said in a statement. ”The Gregg bill deserves the vigorous support of all segments of the diamond industry, here and abroad.”