>Charles Taylor & Blood Diamonds

>Charles Taylor Trial Starts – TIME

This is an interesting event that bears noting.

As I heard on NPR yesterday, Taylor’s trial may cause African leaders to sit up and watch. According to some, this trial will put African leaders on notice that some behavior is intolerable. Not only is their behavior intolerable, but to be a “leader” one cannot feign ignorance of the actions of subordinates. Also, criminal behavior as endemic as it appears to have been in Liberia reflects on the leadership, and leaders should be held as responsible as those that actually pulled the trigger.

All of that is well and good, and I hope the prosecution pulls this one out.

The intriguing part of this event is the role of blood diamonds. Blood diamonds, also called Conflict Diamonds, are diamonds, extracted from the ground by slave or conscripted labor, and sold to unscrupulous traders in exchange for weapons. The weapons are then used to subjugate the indigenous population, fund other illegal activities, to enhance the wealth of the ruling group, or to fund conflict in other countries. Paramilitary groups have been known to round up men and children and put them to work searching for diamonds, threatening families and women in the event that other family members attempt to leave. Workers caught pocketing diamonds, even small ones, are liable to have hands chopped off, family members killed, or be killed themselves.

Many diamond producers, after 1999, vowed never to purchase diamonds obtained by the means described above. The problem is in the policing of these diamonds, and the unscrupulous people that trade in diamonds. Diamonds are smuggled from countries that have oppressive extraction methods to countries that comply with voluntary warranty systems (Kimberley Process). Then, these “legitimate” diamonds are sold on the diamond auction just as those diamonds obtained from more transparent processes.

74 Countries are members of the Kimberley Process, a system where member states can only trade with other member states. These member states must have met certain conditions and requirements to ensure transparency in the movement of diamonds. The issue in Africa is the corruption endemic in many governments, where money changes hands, encouraging people to look the other way.

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