NGO says Lebanon may be funding African conflicts with imported diamonds

Lebanon is importing rough diamonds, raising serious concern that the proceeds could be used to fund African conflicts, according to the nongovernmental organization, Global Witness.

Lebanese customs data published online showed that industrial rough diamonds worth $156 million were imported during the year, according a report from INRINews.org, a United Nations humanitarian news and information service.

“These significant imports of diamonds into Lebanon, are of great concern to Global Witness, as they counter the efforts of the international community to stop the trade in conflict diamonds,” Corinna Gilfillan, lead campaigner at the U.S. branch of the NGO, reportedly said.

The NGO says it believes the diamonds originated from the Republic of Congo. “The country has long been a conduit for smuggled gems from diamond-producing neighbors, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola,” Gilfillan reportedly said.

A Lebanese official told Global Witness that an investigation was underway, but no one was available for comment when approached by IRIN.

“Lebanon should make public the results of the investigation into these imports,” Global Witness reportedly said. “If the imports exist, Lebanon should show its commitment to eliminating the trade in conflict diamonds by seizing these imports, declaring its current stock of rough diamonds, and releasing a list of companies trading in rough diamonds.”

In 2003 the international community created the Kimberley Process to ensure that conflict diamonds did not enter legitimate trade.

Rough diamonds traded in countries that are not signatories to the Kimberley Process are at high risk of being considered conflict diamonds.

The DROC was suspended from the Kimberley Process in July 2004 for exporting large quantities of rough diamonds, despite having little known production. Lebanon is not a member of the process. A total of 42 countries and the EC participate in the process and members are required to trade in rough diamonds only with other participants.