U.S. House approves legislation to stop illicit traffic in diamonds

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill Tuesday aimed at regulating the international trade in rough diamonds that fuel rebel activities in Africa.

“The United States is committed to banning the trade of these gems,” Bill Thomas, R-Calif. and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.

The House vote was 419-2 in favor of the Clean Diamond Act (HR 1584), which seeks to finalize the structure of the Kimberley Process, to oversee diamond trade between nations and individuals worldwide using certificates verifiable at government level. The Senate is due to move forward on a companion bill that is expected to be approved. A Congressional joint committee will then merge the two separate bills into a single bill before it reaches the desk of U.S. President George W. Bush for his final approval.

Fifty-two countries last November announced that they had formally adopted the Kimberley Process, which was launched in South Africa in 2000 and is supported by the United Nations.

Forty-six countries said they would implement the scheme on January 1 and six countries pledged to set it up by the end of 2003.

Representatives of the diamond and jewelry industries greeted House approval of the bill as a crucial advance in the international campaign to eliminate the traffic in conflict diamonds. They urged prompt enactment of the bill and pledged the industry’s full cooperation in helping to implement the control system now being put in place.

“Passage of HR 1584 with overwhelming bipartisan support vindicates the efforts of many interested parties – in government, humanitarian organizations and industry – who have worked hard to rid the world of conflict diamonds,” Eli Izhakoff, chairman of the World Diamond Council, and Matthew Runci, executive director of the WDC and president/CEO of Jewelers of America, said in a joint statement.

“While the success of the Kimberley Process will depend heavily on sound government enforcement, the industry also has a significant part going forward,” the statement continues. “Working primarily through the International Diamond Manufacturers Association and the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, the World Diamond Council has created a regimen of self-regulation to supplement government measures. We understand that this imposes a significant responsibility not only on these and other organizations, but also on their constituents worldwide. We are committed to meeting this responsibility on a permanent basis.”