Tiffany & Co. and Chicago retailer Leber Jeweler have signed a joint public letter supporting journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, currently facing criminal charges for his book on the country’s diamond industry.
Marques faces criminal defamation charges in Angola over his book, Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, which features detailed and often graphic accounts of torture and human rights abuses in its diamond industry. The abuses are often committed by private security companies hired by miners, the book claims.
“As jewelry firms, we wish to work toward a global diamond supply chain free from human rights abuses,” reads the letter. It urges the Angolan government to form an independent commission to investigate Marques’ charges.
Leber Jeweler owner Brian Leber tells JCK that he was asked by a group of nongovernment organizations to sign the letter—and while other retailers were approached, in the end, only his company and Tiffany signed on.
“For many in our industry, ethical issues are all about damage control,” Leber says. “It’s disappointing that people don’t want to take a proactive stand.”
“I have known Rafael for years. I have been a huge fan of his work. I tip my hat to him. He was safe and sound in London, but he decided to go back to Angola and take a stand for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. That’s bravery. That’s a hero. He deserves our industry’s support,” he continues.
Marques recently said he expects to settle with the Angolan generals pursuing the defamation charges, though other charges may still stand.
NGOs have hinted his prosecution may become an issue in the Kimberley Process, currently chaired by Angola.
Tiffany did not return a request for comment.