Human Rights Day and Conflict Diamonds

Today the international community commemorates Human Rights Day. This is a day to reflect on the different human rights abuses that still occur around the world. With the theatrical release of “Blood Diamond,” a new spotlight has been placed on the ongoing problem of conflict diamonds in Africa. While the film follows the same Hollywood formula of a sappy romance and the elements of a buddy flick, albeit a racialized one, the film does a good job of getting this human rights issue on the table.

From Wikipedia:

In some of the more politically unstable central African and west African countries, revolutionary groups have taken control of diamond mines, using proceeds from diamond sales to finance their operations. Diamonds sold through this process are known as conflict diamonds. In response to public concerns that their diamond purchases were contributing to war and human rights abuses in central Africa and west Africa, the diamond industry and diamond-trading nations introduced the Kimberley Process in 2002, which is aimed at ensuring that conflict diamonds do not become intermixed with the diamonds not controlled by such rebel groups. The Kimberley Process provides documentation and certification of diamond exports from producing countries to ensure that the proceeds of sale are not being used to fund criminal or revolutionary activities. Although the Kimberley Process has been highly successful in limiting the number of conflict diamonds entering the market, conflict diamonds smuggled to market continue to persist to some degree (approx. 1% of diamonds traded today are possible conflict diamonds. According to the 2006 book, The Heartless Stone, two major flaws still hinder the effectiveness of the Kimberley Process: the relative ease of smuggling diamonds across African borders and given phony histories, and the violent nature of diamond mining in nations which are not in a technical state of war and whose diamonds are therefore considered "clean."

Currently, gem production totals nearly 30 million carats (6,000 kg) of cut and polished stones annually, and over 100 million carats (20,000 kg) of mined diamonds are sold for industrial use each year, as are about 100,000 kg of synthesized diamond. In 2003, this constituted total production of nearly US$9 billion in value.

However the film itself has sparked controversies:

The World Diamond Council and the De Beers Group, which controls the vast majority of the diamond trade, have expressed reservations the film will reduce public demand for diamonds. De Beers maintains the trade in conflict diamonds has been reduced from 4% to 1% by the Kimberley Process and it has been suggested the company pushed for the film to contain a disclaimer saying the events are fictional and in the past. De Beers has denied this.

More recently, the New York Post has reported Warner Bros. Pictures promised twenty-seven child and teenage amputee extras for the film prosthetics upon completion of filming. Several month after the completion of filming, the prosthetics had not been supplied, and it was reported the studio told amputees they would wait until the December release of the film to maximize the publicity boost. In the meantime a private charity had to step-in and assist in supplying prosthetics to the amputees. These allegations were countered by an article in L.A. Weekly where it was stated that Warner Bros. did not promise twenty-seven children and teenage amputees prosthetics, but that the cast and crew raised between $200,000 to $400,000 to begin the "Blood Diamond Fund" which was then matched by Warner Bros. and "administered by a Maputo-based international accountancy firm under the supervision of Laws and João Ribeiro, the production managers in Mozambique."


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