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We welcome the international process that my friend and colleague come the diamond industry's remarkable action taken at Antwerp. Human Rights welcomes your interest in this issue and we welMs. BURKHALTER. Thank you, Chairman Crane. Physicians for
PHYSICIANS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS STATEMENT OF HOLLY BURKHALTER, ADVOCACY DIRECTOR,
Alex has described to create an international system for legitimizing an industry. And we welcome Tony Hall's legislation. But I have a concern about all of these various developments. All of them are too slow to impact what is going on in Sierra Leone right now.
Sierra Leone is controlled by the RUF, about half of its territory, including 90 percent of the diamond-producing areas. The presence of 16,000 U.N. troops has not made a difference in the RUF's ability to control and abuse the civilian population. Recently, I heard a report from the foremost human rights activist in Sierra Leone, a wonderful woman named Zainab Bangura, who had just received the word about the RUF's youngest rape victim, who was 12 months old. So long as the RUF is in place in Sierra Leone, it will continue to commit abuses like this, and the key to the RUF maintaining its power and authority and military supremacy in Sierra Leone is diamond revenues.
Last year, Liberia, precisely the year that the region was under the closest international scrutiny and there were the most protestations about conflict diamonds including a host of international meetings, Liberia had a boom year for sales, exporting $290 million worth of stones. So any action that is taken has to happen very quickly to deprive the RUF by depriving Liberia and others who transship Sierra Leonean stones of resources and revenues with which they are buying weapons to abuse the civilian population.
When you consider, for example, that the Swiss government released figures that the Liberian sales doubled last year to $30 million just to Switzerland, that buys a lot of rifles. The RUF is not buying aircraft carriers. They are not buying cruise missiles. They are buying guns, and with those guns, particularly when their adversaries tend to be about five years old, they can do a great deal of damage.
Thus, I am concerned that the legislation you are considering right now has a two-year waiver. The RUF can be in place for two years without seeing a dent in the resources it gains through the illicit transfer of diamonds through Burkina Faso, Liberia, Togo, and other countries.
Similarly, with the RUF controls regimen proposed in Antwerp, which we strongly support, even under the most optimistic scenario, a global regimen under U.N. auspices that requires a treaty, that requires every exporting and importing country in the world to take legislative action, that requires consistent packaging in every producing country, understandably, is going to take some months, if not years, to put in place, and in the meantime, Liberia and others continue to export diamonds in huge amounts.
My own view is that the United States Congress should take action immediately to put in place an import regimen that says the U.S. will not import any cut and finished stones from any country that does not have an embargo in place on the importation of rough stones from Liberia.
Basically, this is the kind of legislation that is going to be required once the Antwerp system is in place. I am simply urging you to put it in place early and put it in place now. It is not a substitute for the Antwerp system and it is not a substitute for the international regimen, but it would allow the United States to push very hard at the major importing nations of rough stones, that is to say Israel, India, and Belgium, that they must themselves throw up import restrictions on the importation of the principal countries that are transshipping Sierra Leonean gems.
It does not do any good for Belgium to say solemnly, we are not importing any stones exported from Sierra Leone when everybody knows that Sierra Leone is not officially exporting any stones. Sierra Leonean stones are going almost exclusively through Liberia, through Burkina, through Togo, through Guinea, and through other countries. So saying you are not handling conflict stones while you are allowing a boom number of stones to come in from Liberia is simply disingenuous.
So my view is that the United States cannot control the diamond industry. It cannot control the import and export policies of its allies and those that are the principal players in the diamond industry, but we can control what we are importing and we can put import controls in place tomorrow that would make it impossible for Belgium, India, and Israel to continue handling rough stones and expect to export the finished product here.
I would allow you a six-month waiting period if you asked, because these things cannot be done overnight. But I think the twoyear waiting period in the Hall bill and the "however long it takes" for the Antwerp system is simply too long given the urgency of the problem in Sierra Leone today. Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement follows:) Statement of Holly Burkhalter, Advocacy Director, Physicians for Human
Good morning, Chairman Crane and Members of the Committee. My name is Holly Burkhalter, and I am the advocacy director of Physicians for Human Rights. I am honored to appear at this hearing; thank you for conducting it. Physicians for Human Rights is a human rights organization that utilizes the skills of the medical and scientific professions to investigate and prevent human rights abuses around the world.
My organization, which conducted an investigation of rape and sexual violence in Sierra Leone last March, has organized in collaboration with InterAction and the Africa Advocacy Network an informal coalition of some seventy U.S.-based human rights, humanitarian, and religious groups to promote protection of human rights in Sierra Leone. As a part of that effort, we have called upon the diamond industry to take specific action to deprive the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of revenues from their control of Sierra Leone's diamond resources, as a way of denying them access to weapons and ending their control of and abuses against the civilian population. It goes without saying that if diamond revenues were not being used to purchase weapons that are used against the unarmed population, Physicians for Human Rights would not be concerned about the RUF's control of Sierra Leone's diamonds. For it is the link between diamonds, weapons, and abuses that is of concern, not diamonds in and of themselves. My remarks today focus on diamonds and violence in Sierra Leone, but the observations about the need for reforming the diamond industry apply to Angola as well, and to future conflicts that may arise in other diamond-producing countries. Summary:
Physicians for Human Rights is deeply concerned about the continued sale of diamonds by insurgent forces in Sierra Leone and Angola, and the flow of weapons to the combatants in return. We welcome the diamond industry's recent commitment to developing a global certification regimen that eventually will marginalize the trade in conflict diamonds, and we urge all governments to diplomatically support the initiative. In the meantime, however, it is vitally important that the world's principal importers of rough diamonds—Belgium, Israel, and India—immediately enact unilateral prohibitions on the import of rough diamonds laundered through Liberia, Burkina Faso, and Togo, and enact a quota on imports of diamonds from the Ivory Coast and Guinea that is commensurate with their indigenous diamond producing capacity. We respectfully urge this Committee to enact legislation this year that prohibits American imports of diamonds from countries that have not erected meaningful trade barriers against diamonds arriving from countries known to launder Sierra Leonean and Angolan gems, or that permit the diamond industry within its borders to handle stones from such sources. Background:
The Committee is familiar with the role that diamonds have played in funding and fueling appalling human rights abuses in Sierra Leone; indeed, that is why you have called this hearing. The misappropriation of Sierra Leone's diamond resources by insurgents and renegade army officers and soldiers dates back to the early 1990's, and official corruption and theft of Sierra Leone's diamond resources is a decades-long problem. But the linkage between diamonds and conflict only recently riveted the world's attention because of the RUF's extraordinarily cruel violence against unarmed men, women, and children. The insurgents' signature violations include mass rape of women and children of all ages; widespread amputation of limbs; and extensive forcible recruitment, deployment, and abuse of child soldiers.
Physicians for Human Rights' preliminary medical investigation of human rights abuses conducted last spring revealed that in areas under RUF control (approximately half of Sierra Leone) almost every Sierra Leonean institution, town, village, and family has been weakened, scarred, maimed or destroyed by the insurgents' reign of terror.1 PHR researchers have been informed by local human rights activists that in some communities almost every woman and girl has been raped. Thousands of women and children were abducted by RUF insurgents to serve as sexual slaves or child combatants and hundreds are still in their custody.
The ubiquitous practice of rape is particularly appalling. This is a crime that carries great shame and stigma for the victims, and many rape victims who have escaped from the RUF (often pregnant or with new babies) have been rejected by their families and communities. These innocent victims, many of whom survived other gross crimes, such as amputation and mutilation and many of whom are HIV-positive as a result of rape, need extensive mental and physical health services as well as job training and humanitarian assistance. But such services are all but nonexistent outside of Freetown because of the security threat that humanitarian organizations face in working in areas under the RUF's control, and the paucity of such services generally.
The RUF's violence (as well as war crimes by other parties to the conflict) has resulted in upwards of a million noncombatants fleeing the country altogether and another million being displaced from their homes inside the country. But it was not until the rebel force attacked U.N. peacekeepers attempting to disarm and demobilize RUF combatants in the diamond-mining areas, kisling several and taking five hundred hostage in May, that the international community at last was moved to outrage and action. That action has included, appropriately, demands that the RUF be deprived of the revenues from diamond smuggling that have been crucial to its military campaign that nearly destroyed Sierra Leone and its people.
The Revolutionary United Front insurgency appears to have grown and developed largely because of its access to diamond resources, with which the rebel force transformed itself into a formidable fighting force of some 15,000 fighters, well-armed and well-equipped with everything that money can buy. As Ambassador Richard Holbrooke stated in his July 31 testimony before the Security Council, “A year ago, the RUF were drug-crazed, machete-wielding thugs. They are now acquiring machine guns, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles and the means to shoot down aircraft.” In a region where an AK-47 can be purchased for $5, millions of dollars in diamond revenues have permitted the RUF to exert enormous control over the civilian population of the country.
The RUF does not appear to have an ideological basis for its war against its own people, nor do ethnic or tribal divisions offer an explanation for its struggle. Rather, the insurgents' seizure of territory appears to be based exclusively on their quest for diamonds, money, and power. Without its access to Sierra Leone's vast diamond
1 The RUF is the principal violator of human rights in the conflict of the past decade, but Sierra Leonean army forces and militia members (the so-called Karmajors) have also engaged in gross violations of human rights, including capture and use of child soldiers. PHR is particularly concerned about abuses attributable to forces under the authority of Johnny Paul Koromo, who is now allied with the government of Sierra Leone.
2 These numbers amount to half the population of Sierra Leone being displaced from their homes.
wealth and the assistance of a powerful patron in neighboring Liberia, Charles Taylor, the RUF would never have become the military force that it is today.
Although Liberian officials have taken great umbrage at denunciations by the Clinton Administration and British officials at its role in laundering the RUF's illicit diamond wealth, export statistics are a damning indictment. Official exports of diamonds from Sierra Leone in recent years have only averaged 8,500 carats annually, but historically Sierra Leone's annual production has totalled 530,000 carats. Where are the missing diamonds? The RUF controls 90 percent of Sierra Leone's diamondproducing areas and diamonds are most assuredly being mined and exported. They are entering the world market through a number of other countries, most notably Liberia.
Liberia's average annual mining capacity is 100,000–150,000 carats, but the official Diamond High Council in Antwerp recorded Liberian imports into Belgium of more than 31 million carats over the past five years; an average of 6 million carats a year. U.S. Government officials estimate that the RUF has accrued $30-$50 million and perhaps as much as $125 million a year from the illicit sale of diamonds.3
The role of neighboring countries in transshipping diamonds mined elsewhere can be seen in statistical records from the past decade in Belgium: Guinea exported 2.8 times more than it produced; Ivory Coast exported eight times more than it produced; and Liberia exported 40 times more than it produced.4 The Canadian nongovernmental organization, Partnership Africa Canada, which has investigated the issue of conflict diamonds extensively, has identified the active involvement of Liberian officials in serving as a fencing operation for diamonds smuggled from other nations, including Angola and Sierra Leone.
In a report this year, Partnership Africa Canada detailed the links between diamonds and weapons in Sierra Leone: "British newspaper accounts in January 1999 reported that late the previous year the RUF had contracted two British companies operating 'aging Boeing aircraft to transport AK47 rifles and 60 mm. portable mortars to rebel-held territory in eastern Sierra Leone. The 40-ton consignment of arms, from Brataslava in Slovakia, was undoubtedly acquired with diamond resources. The arms were crucial in the RUF's successful and highly destructive attack on Freetown in January 1999.”5
Other nations, notably Burkina Faso, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, and Togo are also implicated in diamond smuggling from Sierra Leone, according to United Nations experts. Burkina Faso's president, Blaise Campoare, is intimately involved with the RUF and a key advisor on its military stratgies. According to British Foreign Ministry official Stephen Pattison, Campoare and Charles Taylor regularly meet with RUF military commanders to discuss strategy. The meetings are chaired either by Taylor or Campoare. Pattison offered a detailed description of recent meetings between the RUF, Campoare, and Taylor, describing how three rebels, one carrying diamonds to pay for 'material from Burkina Faso, traveled with Charles Taylor to a June 5 meeting in Ouagadougou; five days later, the rebel commander flew to Monrovia to meet Taylor, carrying more diamonds to buy equipment.?
International attention to the role of diamonds in the ongoing destruction of Sierra Leone because of the U.N. hostage crisis and fear of possible consumer boycott of diamonds persuaded the diamond industry in May of this year to undertake comprehensive reforms. At a meeting of diamond-producing nations and the industry in kimberly, South Africa, a plan for developing a global certification regimen for legitimate diamonds was developed and a follow-up meeting was held in Luanda in May. The most significant development was in mid-July at Antwerp, where the World Diamond Congress (the industry trade association) formally announced a comprehensive, global certification plan for assuring that the industry does not trade in conflict diamonds. A preliminary diplomatic meeting of key diamond producers and importers was held last week in Windhoek, Namibia, and ministerial meetings are scheduled for Pretoria in two weeks to finalize the agreement.
Put overly simply, the industry's proposed global certification scheme, known as "rough controls,” would work as follows. Rather than attempting to identify and ex
3 Statement of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Exploratory Hearing on Sierra Leone Diamonds, Security Council, July 31, 2000.
* Notes for UN Security Council Committee on Sierra Leone Sanctions, Partnership Africa Canada, July 31, 2000.
5 «The Heart of the Matter, Diamonds and Human Security,” Partnership Africa Canada, 2000.
6 Guina, which is said to be a transshipment point for a significant quantity of insurgent-controlled stones is in a different category than Liberia and Burkina Faso. There is no evidence of official Guinean government complicity in the smuggling, and the authorities have appealed for international assistance in stopping it.
7 "African Nations Threatened with Sanctions,” The Washington Post, July 31, 2000.