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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Naomi Campbell, Mia Farrow, Charles Taylor, ‘Blood Diamonds’

Now that I have fulfilled my search engine optimization requirements let’s discuss the impact this high profile, star-studded war crimes tribunal will have on the jewelry and diamond industries. It isn’t good.

Right now, the focus is on the world’s most famous fashion model, Naomi Campbell, and her vague testimony on mysteriously receiving rough diamonds late at night in her room at Nelson Mandela’s house after having dinner there with Taylor and others. The event took place in 1997. Taylor served as president of Liberia from 1997 till 2003.

Acclaimed actress and high-profile activist, Mia Farrow, who also testified at the trial, disputed important parts Campbell’s testimony as to events of that dinner, which she attended. Campbell’s former agent, Carole White, another dinner guest, also disputed some of Campbell’s testimony, but her story has come under attack by the defense as inconsistent.

For the tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, Campbell’s testimony is vital as the court is trying to determine the direct link of “blood diamonds” to Taylor. For the majority of the world, it’s another celebrity story. However, the celebrity involvement in this highly technical trial has opened the issue of blood diamonds to the world more than the fictional Blood Diamond movie could ever have done.

This means that more people will be aware of diamonds and their past and present use in fueling wars and human atrocities. After all, Taylor is charged with 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity while president of Liberia. Specifically, he is accused of backing the rebel Revolutionary United Front in the Sierra Leone Civil War and assisting them through weapon sales, which were smuggled illegally, in exchange for blood diamonds. These weapons were used to commit atrocities against civilians that left many thousands dead or mutilated, with unknown numbers of people abducted and tortured.

Along with diamonds, the spotlight will again be focused on The Kimberley Process—the joint governments, industry and civil society initiative to stem the flow of “conflict diamonds”—the term used by the industry as opposed to “blood diamonds,” through a certification process. In particular, its recent controversial decision to allow the sale of rough diamond exports from the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe, where diamonds are still fueling conflict and human rights abuses in that country. There are also problems with the diamond trade in Angola and Côte d’Ivoire.

Whatever you want to call these diamonds, even though they account for a minuscule part of diamond sales, they will be attracting plenty of attention for a long time to come. It’s important that distributors, retailers and consumers are vigilant in making sure the diamond jewelry they buy or sell is conflict free. More to come.

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