PrimeTime Tackles Conflict Diamonds

A harrowing segment about “conflict diamonds” on ABC’s PrimeTime has many worrying about its possible effect on Christmas diamond sales.

Most jewelers contacted by JCK said they were shocked by the gruesome images in the report, featured on the show’s season premiere, but didn’t receive many comments on the show from consumers. But viewer feedback posted on the Web site was almost unanimously negative. “For now, I have taken off my diamonds,” read one message. “It doesn’t feel right wearing them.” Another asked: “How can you buy diamonds knowing that such atrocities occur?”

The show included wrenching footage of victims of atrocities in Sierra Leone, including babies and children with their arms cut off. The Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the Sierra Leone rebel group, has made amputations its signature when invading villages. The group gets most of its funding from diamond sales.

“Every person in this camp tells us that without diamonds the rebels wouldn’t even exist,” said reporter John Quiñones.

The segment included an interview with De Beers director Tim Capon, who said that De Beers does not buy any diamonds from rebel areas. But the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, doubted that claim, noting that “De Beers is not exactly the most open, accessible, and transparent company in the world.” Holbrooke said the diamond industry should worry about bad publicity if the situation continues.

In closing remarks, Quiñones added: “Some human rights activists have threatened to call for a worldwide boycott of diamond sales, a boycott that would make wearing diamonds as politically incorrect as wearing fur. But that’s not really the answer. After all, these blood diamonds account for only a small percentage of all the diamonds sold around the world. The real solution is to somehow convince the industry and these corrupt governments to stop trading in this illicit business.”

It would be difficult, however, for that measured remark to compete with the testimony-and the image-of a young girl who lost both her arms to the rebels. “I don’t want people to buy diamonds,” she said. “Because diamonds are killing us.”