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Diamonds are supposed to be symbols of love, commitment, and joyful new beginnings. But for many people in diamond-rich countries, these sparkling stones are more a curse than a blessing. Too often, the world’s diamond mines produce not only diamonds – but also civil wars, violence, human rights abuses, worker exploitation, environmental degradation, and unspeakable human suffering.

Not long ago, the public started to become aware that large numbers of diamonds are mined in violent and inhumane settings. Consumers are now demanding, with ever greater urgency, that their diamonds be free from bloodshed and human rightsFueling Civil Wars abuses. So far, however, the diamond industry’s response has been woefully inadequate. Diamonds with violent histories are still being mined and allowed to enter the diamond supply, where they become indistinguishable from other gems. Violence, human rights abuses, and other injustices remain an everyday aspect of diamond mining.

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Fueling Civil Wars

In just the past two decades, seven African countries have endured brutal civil conflicts fueled by diamonds: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, the Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Diamonds intensify civil wars by financing militaries and rebel militias.Violence still
plagues many
mines in Africa and
South America, with
local populations
displaced to make
way for diamond
development.
These groups also fight with each other to control diamond-rich territory. The tragic result is bloodshed, loss of life, and shocking human rights abuses – from rape to the use of child soldiers.

Diamonds that fuel civil wars are often called "blood" or "conflict" diamonds. Although many diamond-fueled wars have now ended, conflict diamonds remain a serious problem. Civil conflicts in Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, and the DRC continue to this day. So far, the war in the DRC alone has cost more than 5 million lives. In addition, millions of people are dealing with the long-term consequences of these wars: friends and family members lost, lives shattered, and physical and emotional scars that will last generations.

Fueling Civil Wars

Further Reading

Christian Science Monitor

As Ivory Coast’s Gbago holds firm, ‘blood diamonds’ flow for export

New York Times

To Prevent Conflicts, Look to Commodities like Diamonds

CBS News

Diamonds, a War’s Best Friend

History Channel documentary

Blood Diamonds

 

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Human Rights Abuses

Diamond mining is plagued by shocking violence and human rights abuses. Killings, beatings, rape, torture, child labor, forced labor, and other abuses all too frequently take place in connection with diamond mining. Often, these abuses happen in the midst of civil wars. But human rights violations are also a regular part of diamond mining in countries that are not officially at war. At Brilliant Earth, we believe it is important to break the link between diamonds and all forms of violence.

The diamond industry’s attempt to stop violence tied to diamond mining resulted in the establishment of the Kimberley Process, an international diamond certification scheme, in 2003. Unfortunately, the Kimberley Process only places a ban on diamonds that finance rebel movements in war-torn countries. When diamond miners are killed, tortured, raped, or beaten by their own governments – or when children are forced to mine for diamonds – the Kimberley Process does not take action. Instead, it certifies these diamonds as “conflict free" and allows them to be shipped to consumers around the world.

Further Reading

Wall Street Journal

The Blood Diamond Resurfaces

Reuters

Army abuses Zimbabweans to control diamond fields – Human Rights Watch

Columbia News Service

Guilt-free diamonds: beyond blood to human rights

Amnesty International

Blood Diamonds are Still a Reality

 

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Zimbabwe

Despite killings, torture, and other outrageous human rights violations in Zimbabwe’s diamond mining operations, the Kimberley Process certifies Zimbabwean diamonds for export and allows them to be sold in jewelry stores worldwide. Human rights abuses in Zimbabwe starkly illustrate how the Kimberley Process is failing to stop the bloodshed that so often accompanies diamond mining.

The trigger for these abuses was the discovery of a massive diamond deposit in 2006. The Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe potentially could produce $2 billion in rough diamonds per year – or over 10% of the global diamond supply. In 2008, the Zimbabwean army decided to seize the Marange diamond fields for itself. In a violent takeover, the army massacred more than 200 local diamond miners, at times shooting live ammunition from helicopters. Since then, the army has forced local adults and children to mine for diamonds on its behalf. Soldiers punish diamond miners who disobey with indiscriminate violence, including killings, beatings, rape, and torture. Profits from this shocking system of mining diamonds are being used to enrich military leaders and help keep President Robert Mugabe, a brutal dictator, in power.

In mid 2009, the Kimberley Process finally ordered a review mission to Zimbabwe. The investigation confirmed that Zimbabwe was guilty of serious human rights violations. In response, the Kimberley Process temporarily banned Marange diamond exports. However, the Kimberley Process has since allowed exports to resume. Meanwhile, the army continues to force people to mine for diamonds and even run torture camps for uncooperative diamond miners.

Further Reading

Brilliant Earth Blog

BBC Report: Zimbabwe Running Torture Camps for Diamond Miners

Human Rights Watch

Kimberley Process: Zimbabwe Action Mars Credibility

Reuters

Army abuses Zimbabweans to control diamond fields – Human Rights Watch

UPI

Mugabe Depends on Diamonds for Power

The Guardian

Zimbabwe: Spectre of 'blood diamond' returns as Harare seeks go-ahead for gem sales

Brilliant Earth Blog

Mugabe to Kimberley Process: Don't try to stop us

Brilliant Earth

Zimbabwe Blood Diamond Fact Sheet

 

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Côte D’Ivoire

Diamonds are prolonging a bitter civil war in Côte d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast. Since 2004, the war has been mostly at a stalemate, with the north controlled by rebels and the south by government forces. To prevent diamonds from funding the conflict, the Kimberley Process and the United Nations placed a ban on the export of Côte d’Ivoire diamonds in 2005.

Rebels, however, have not abided by the ban. The Kimberley Process has been urged to tighten controls, but has done very little. Every year, rebels smuggle about $20 million worth of diamonds into neighboring countries. Rebels exchange these diamonds for weapons and other supplies. Diamond mining is thus helping to strengthen the rebels and extend the conflict.

In 2010, a disputed presidential election led to a constitutional crisis. Rebel soldiers swept southward in support of Alassane Ouattara, their preferred candidate and the rightful election winner. In the five months of fighting that followed, at least 3,000 people were killed and atrocities were committed by both government and rebel forces. These atrocities are still being investigated, but diamond-funded weapons likely contributed to the bloodshed.

Further Reading

International Crisis Group

A Critical Period for Ensuring Stability in Côte d’Ivoire

Christian Science Monitor

As Ivory Coast’s Gbago holds firm, ‘blood diamonds’ flow for export

Brilliant Earth Blog

Could There Be Another Civil War Funded By Diamonds?

Brilliant Earth Blog

UN Security Council Extends Ban on Diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire

 

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Angola

A decade after the end of a brutal diamond-funded civil war, Angola is now a member of the Kimberley Process and the world’s fifth largest diamond exporter. But a flourishing diamond trade has not made Angola a more responsible diamond producer. Angola’s diamond fields are once again the scene of horrific violence.

In recent years, diamond miners from the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been streaming into northeast Angola to mine for diamonds. Most miners cross the border illegally and do not have legal permission to mine. Angolan soldiers, as well as private security guards for mining corporations, have been brutally cracking down on these foreign miners. Thousands of miners and their families have been beaten, tortured, sexually abused, and even killed. Soldiers routinely demand bribes, beating and killing those miners who do not cooperate.

In 2009, the Angolan army launched an operation that, over a seven month period, led to the violent expulsion of 115,000 Congolese miners. In 2011, a United Nations monitor documented 21,000 cases of serious human rights violations – including rape, beatings and torture – among miners who recently had been expelled. The monitor also found evidence that Angolan soldiers are systematically raping Congolese women and girls.

Further Reading

The Economist

Bad Neighbours

Wall Street Journal

The Blood Diamond Resurfaces

AFP

Angola denies mistreating diamond prospectors

Reuters

Angola says Congo immigrants threaten diamond sector

Washington Post

A New Diamond War

Doctors Without Borders

MSF Denounces Inhumane Treatment of Congolese Expelled from Angola

 

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Central African Republic

A toxic mixture of diamonds, corruption, and ethnic tensions is tearing the Central African Republic apart. This small country in the middle of Africa now has two rebel groups using diamonds to finance their insurgent activities. Rebel groups have been violently seizing control of diamond mines and even fighting with each other to control diamond mining territory.

In 2011, diamond-fueled violence flared up near the diamond mining town of Bria, in the eastern part of the country. Clashes between rebels led to the deaths of at least 50 people. It is now clear that diamonds from the Central African Republic are contributing to chronic instability. Nevertheless, the Kimberley Process continues to certify diamonds from the Central African Republic as conflict free.

Further Reading

Brilliant Earth Blog

Rebels Clash Over Diamonds in Central African Republic

International Crisis Group

Dangerous Little Stones: Diamonds in the Central African Republic

IOL News

CAR Seeks Peace After Diamond Conflict

allAfrica.com

Central African Republic: The Dark Side of Diamonds

 

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Democratic Republic Of Congo

Of all the conflicts in the world today, the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the deadliest by far. Since the late 1990s, rebel armies have been exploiting the country’s gem and mineral resources and funneling the profits toward insurgent activities. To date, more than 5 million people have died as a result of the war. Many more people have been raped, terrorized, and uprooted from their homes.

Diamonds helped start this conflict, and they continue to fuel the violence. Partnership Africa Canada, a leading human rights organization, has documented how rebel soldiers are exploiting diamond-rich areas in eastern Congo. These diamonds are sustaining a civil war that, well into its second decade, is still tearing lives apart.

Further Reading

Brilliant Earth Blog

Financial Overhaul Bill Takes Aim at Dirty Gold

Partnership Africa Canada

Diamonds and Human Security

Brilliant Earth Blog

60 Minutes Report: Gold Mining Fuels Deadly Conflict in Congo

BBC

Illegal Mining Fuels DR Congo War

Partnership Africa Canada

Diamond Industry Annual Review, DRC

 

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