WASHINGTON - November 29 – Two international rights organizations are urging consumers to take action this holiday season to help prevent blood diamonds from entering the legal diamond trade. Amnesty International and Global Witness, with the support of the director and cast members of the movie "Blood Diamond," have launched blooddiamondaction.org, a website to educate consumers about the role of diamonds in funding conflicts that have a devastating impact on civilians.
Blood diamonds are gems that have been used by rebel groups to fund wars across Africa, leading to more than four million deaths and millions more people displaced from their homes. "Despite the tragedies that blood diamonds have caused, neither governments nor the diamond industry is doing enough to stop them," said Global Witness Director Charmian Gooch. "Consumers have the power to effect industry-wide changes simply by demanding that their diamonds are clean."
Consumers should ask retailers the following four questions when purchasing diamonds:
* Do you know where your diamonds come from?
* May I see a copy of your company’s policy on conflict diamonds?
* Can you show me a written guarantee from your diamond suppliers stating that your diamonds are conflict free?
* How can I be sure that none of your jewelry contains conflict diamonds?
In conjunction with the release of "Blood Diamond," Director Ed Zwick and Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Connelly -- who is Amnesty International USA's Ambassador for Human Rights Education -- recently shot Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for the organizations to help further awareness.
"Blood diamonds are not just a problem of the past," said Bonnie Abaunza, Director of Amnesty International USA’s Artists for Amnesty program. "More than $23 million in blood diamonds are currently being smuggled into U.S. and international markets from West Africa. Entertainment and industry leaders have important roles to play as advocates who can influence the United States to demand better checks on the diamond industry."
To ensure the diamond industry is living up to the necessary standards, Amnesty International and Global Witness are updating their 2004 survey of the top diamonds retailers in the United States and the United Kingdom. That survey pointed to the industry’s failure to adequately implement a system of self regulation. The new survey will include the top 75 diamond retailers and suppliers in the United States to ensure that the industry has addressed the gaps uncovered in the organizations’ 2004 survey. Global Witness and Amnesty International are calling on the industry to establish vigorous codes of conduct and put in place an independent verification system, both with actionable timetables.
The results of the survey will be posted on www.blooddiamondaction.org next February. Until then, consumers can view the movie trailer and PSAs on the site, and download letters that they can send to the U.S. government and the World Diamond Council. To further educate and engage young people about blood diamonds -- as well as child soldiers, another main theme in the movie -- Amnesty International USA's Human Rights Education program has developed a curriculum guide to be used in conjunction with the PSAs in high schools and universities across the country.