A few weeks ago we (EcoPost) posted a Brilliant Earth (BE) infographic about “conflict diamonds”, which Sean Clinton believes is grossly misleading.
He has written us the following article to explain why.
Discussions about diamond-funded human rights violations are hampered by the lack of a legal or widely agreed definition of a “blood diamond”. This is not accidental. In an effort to sanitise the issue and protect the diamond brand image, vested interests introduced the term “conflict diamonds”. “Conflict diamonds” are defined by regulations under the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP) as, “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments.”
By limiting the remit of the KP to “conflict diamonds” and by introducing a bogus System of Warranties to create the illusion that KP certified diamonds are conflict-free, the diamond industry insulated the high-value, cut and polished end of their industry from public scrutiny. As a result, the trade in cut and polished diamonds that fund war crimes continues unchecked below the media radar.
Most people would agree that any diamonds associated with serious human rights violations are blood diamonds. If rebel groups or government forces commit human rights violations to gain control of diamond mines, as alleged in the case of the Central African Republic (CAR) and Zimbabwe respectively, the public would rightly consider diamonds so acquired to be blood diamonds.
The KP recently suspended the export of diamonds from CAR but diamonds from Zimbabwe cannot be classed as “conflict diamonds” as the alleged human rights violations in Zimbabwe were carried out by government forces, not by rebels.
Similarly, if revenue from diamonds is funding a regime guilty of war crimes most people would consider such diamonds to be blood diamonds. But blood diamonds that fund war crimes by government forces are not “conflict diamonds” – they are KP compliant and are sold as conflict-free diamonds by jewellers worldwide.
The Kimberley Process system of self-regulation was introduced by the diamond industry in 2003 after years of pressure from civil society groups. Their main objectives in agreeing to adopt the KP system was to stem the trade in diamonds that fund rebel groups, restrict debate about blood diamonds to the mining sector and bolster the flagging diamond brand image in the wake of damaging revelations about diamond-funded human rights violations in certain African countries. The revelations gave rise to growing public concern about blood diamonds and spawned a Hollywood film, Blood Diamond, which further cemented the public association between diamonds and human rights violations.
The Brilliant Earth infographic is an example of how the diamond industry employs smoke and mirror tactics to convince the public of the ethical provenance of diamonds – even though they are funding a regime accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is a tactic which BE has consistently adopted as it tries to claim the high moral ground and gain competitive advantage in the diamond market.
The elephant in the room, which no one in the diamond industry will speak out about, is Israel. Israel, one of the world’s leading diamond exporters, stands accused of war crimes the UN Human Rights Council (here), Amnesty International (here), Human Rights Watch (here), and Israeli human-rights organisation B’Tselem (here).
According to Greg Krauss from Brilliant Earth (here), some of their diamonds are cut and polished in Israel. Revenue from the diamond industry in Israel is a major source of funding for the belligerent nuclear-armed apartheid regime in Israel which is accused of flagrant and repeated breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law.
In evidence to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Israeli political economist Shir Hever stated, “Every time somebody buys a diamond that was exported from Israel some of that money ends up in the Israeli military, so the financial connection is quite clear. Overall the Israeli diamond industry contributes about $1 billion annually to the Israeli military and security industries.”
The BE infographic tells us their “beyond conflict free” diamonds are “untouched by violence and human rights abuses”. That’s patently untrue for diamonds processed in Israel. The infographic highlights the fact that revenue from diamonds is funding jobs, education, the environment and health services in Africa. But it fails to mention that revenue from diamonds is also a major source of funding for the Israeli military. The Israeli military assault on the besieged residents of Gaza in the winter of 2008/2009 killed over 1400 Palestinians, mainly civilians, including over three hundred children.
As far as Brilliant Earth, and the rest of the jewellery industry, is concerned Palestinians are invisible, non-entities not worthy of consideration when it comes to deciding the ethical provenance of the diamonds they profit from. For the so-called ethical jewellery sector it is fashionable to be concerned about human rights for black African children – their favourite poster image – but not for Palestinians who languish under the cosh of a brutal diamond-funded regime.
Palestinian children have been blown to bits by Israeli shells and missiles from land, sea and air. They have been terrorised, maimed and traumatised, imprisoned in gaols and in their homes, deprived of the basic rights we all take for granted; the right not to see their parents and siblings murdered, humiliated, tortured, starved, beaten, imprisoned without charge or trial, their lives restricted in every way, deprived of an education, denied freedom of movement, denied adequate medical facilities, their home bulldozed without notice, forced to live in tents and refugee camps with no means to defend themselves and no safe refuge from Israeli attack, no recourse to international law and denied the right to self-determination to mention just some of the human rights violations funded by revenue from Israeli diamonds.
Brilliant Earth has never denied that some of their diamonds are processed in Israel. Scores of people have been blocked from the BE Facebook page when they questioned the ethical provenance of their diamonds. Unlike Nelson Mandela, which Greg Krauss in his latest missive unfairly accuses of failing to support the campaign against blood diamonds, BE can’t claim they haven’t “thought deeply about the role of diamonds in funding armed conflict”. The claim by Brilliant Earth that their diamonds are “beyond conflict free” is nothing but a cynical marketing ploy.
Cover Photo: White phosphorous rains down on a UN School in Gaza on January 17th 2009, killing two brothers aged 4 and 5 and wounding 14 others – a war crime, documented by Human Rights Watch here. Credits: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2009/03/25/rain-fire