In August 2010, supermodel Naomi Campbell gave evidence at the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, after it emerged that she had been given "dirty stones" at a charity dinner in 1997. The prosecution were trying to prove that Mr. Taylor was linked to the trade of blood diamonds---an illegal trade closely linked to bloodshed in war-torn parts of Africa.
What is a Blood Diamond?
The United Nations defines a blood diamond, or conflict diamond, as one that "originates from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognised governments." The sale of such diamonds helps to finance these rebel forces in their armed struggle, and this has affected African countries including Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is estimated that in the late 1990s, about four per cent of diamonds produced worldwide were blood diamonds.
The International Fight Against Blood Diamonds
After the United Nations defined the blood diamond, the diamond industry took steps to eliminate the trade, adopting the "zero tolerance" Kimberley Process Certification System in 2003. This process covers the export and import of diamonds and only the 74 countries who have adopted it as law are allowed to export rough diamonds. A voluntary System of Warranties covers the manufacture and trade in imported diamonds, whereby all invoices involving a legitimate diamond carry a statement declaring that the diamond has not come from a conflict zone. As a result of this policing, it is estimated that over 99 per cent of diamonds brought to market are from conflict-free areas.
No Pros for Blood Diamonds
In the face of the evidence, it is impossible to list any benefits for blood diamonds. They have been condemned by the United Nations. The sheer scale of the civil war in Sierra Leone they helped to fund, in which an estimated 120,000 people were killed from 1991 to 2001, proves that these illegitimate diamonds do nothing but cause human suffering. In February 2011, Charles Taylor's trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone heard that he received "mayonnaise jars" full of blood diamonds from the Revolutionary United Front, providing them with the arms they needed in return.
The UN attributes the trade in blood diamonds to funding "horrific atrocities" in Sierra Leone, amongst many other conflicts in Africa. International efforts to eradicate this trade have been concerted and have made major inroads since the late 1990s. The endeavours of the global diamond trade in this case are to be applauded, because in the words of UN ambassador Juan Larrain, "Angola and Sierra Leone have already paid too much."