The U.S. House of Representatives voted 408-6 in favor of the Clean Diamond Trade Act, which would give the President the power to impose sanctions on countries that sell diamonds illegally to fund regional conflict and terrorist activities. The Act also prohibits countries from exporting diamonds to the United States unless they have implemented a system of controls to ensure that the diamonds are from a legitimate source. The diamonds at issue are so-called “blood diamonds” which have been traded to raise funds for rebel groups in Sierra Leone and Angola. The United States had been opposed to large-scale international efforts to curb the sale of blood diamonds until the Washington Post reported that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda may have made millions in profits from the illicit diamond trade to conduct its terrorist activities in Afghanistan and throughout the world.
The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone is perhaps the most well-known rebel group to use money from blood diamonds to fund its activities, which included massive human rights abuses and intimidation techniques such as the amputation of arms, legs, and fingers of children and others. The RUF denies that it has ever had links to bin Laden or al Qaeda. According to the Washington Post, the diamond trade produces an estimated $6 billion annually.
Media Resources: New York Times, 11/29/01; Thomas; Washington Post, 11/28/01; Agence-France Press, 11/3/01