Israeli ‘blood diamonds’ no better than Naomi’s

THE continuing saga of the supermodel Naomi Campbell, the alleged war criminal Charles Taylor and blood diamonds has proven irresistible for the broadcast and print media.

However, despite all the coverage, nobody has pointed out the gaping hole in the Kimberley Process (KP) regulations which are supposed to prevent the trade in blood diamonds.

The KP definition of a blood diamond is restricted to "rough diamonds used by rebel movements". This narrow definition facilitates the trade in diamonds that funds human rights abuses committed by governments.

In June the KP failed to reach agreement on banning diamond exports from Zimbabwe which, although associated with gross human rights abuses, could not be classed as blood diamonds as the abuses were committed by government forces.

However, the much larger elephant in the room is Israel — the world’s top diamond exporter. Revenue from the Israeli diamond industry funds the sort of human rights abuses the Kimberley Process is supposed to prevent.

Israel has already been found guilty of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity by a UN investigation and is currently the subject of another UN investigation for its assault on a flotilla carrying aid to Gaza which left nine civilians dead.

Despite this, diamonds crafted in Israel flood the market, accounting for more than 50% of all gem-quality diamonds. And jewellers tell customers their diamonds are "conflict-free".

The EU, a member of the KP, should seek an urgent review of the KP so all diamonds that fund human rights abuses are classed as blood diamonds and banned. Consumers can have no confidence in the existing regulations and should refuse to buy diamonds that are not laser-inscribed to identify where they were crafted.

Otherwise they run a high risk of being sold diamonds crafted in Israel and thereby helping to fund the sort of human rights abuses that have landed Charles Taylor in The Hague.

Seán Clinton
Barrington’s Bridge
Co Limerick

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Friday, August 13, 2010