In 2003, the United Nations drew up the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to resolve the issue of illegally mined “conflict diamonds” entering the marketplace, and funding criminal insurgency in parts of Africa. Rebel factions, such as UNITA, would force workers (sometimes children) against their will to dig for that perfect diamond. Following this, they would sell their ill-gotten gains into the diamond market, via corrupt dealers, and use the profits to buy weaponry and war paraphernalia in order to enslave more miners––thus starting the cycle over.
As a clear violation of human rights, nearly forty countries signed into the scheme to combat conflict diamond mining at the time, with a further fifteen joining since 2003. The KPCS works in a similar way as the Magnitsky Act, in that there is a non-compliance sanction against known sellers of illegally mined gemstones. Regardless of whether it is the most perfect diamond, jewelry dealers will simply not engage with conflict mining sellers, and this is the first step to eradicating the funding of such rebel groups.
The Kimberly Certification Process Scheme and Canadian Law
To understand how the KPCS works for jewelers, one has to look at the similar Global Magnitsky Act and how it is applied in Canadian law. In 2017, the Canadian Parliament passed their own version of the U.S Magnitsky Act in the form of the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act. The reform, named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Ukrainian-born Russian tax advisor who died after nearly a year in police custody after raising suspicions of fraud within the Russian Government, is intended to lock foreign officials out of Canada’s governmental dealings if they (or associates) are suspected of human rights violations. In Canada, this is also a contravention of the administrative law––particular expertise of Tamil-Canadian Attorney and activist Malliha Wilson––and a paramount part of the Canadian legal infrastructure.
Veteran litigator and former Assistant Deputy Attorney General Malliha Wilson also hold a strong belief in the Magnitsky Act as it pertains to Canadian law. Like the KPCS for conflict diamond dealers, Wilson calls for a blanket refusal to interact with human rights abusers. Doing so is not only a contravention of the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, but should Canadian government officials and agents be interacting with them, then this is also a breach of the Administrative Law too. The best way to hold corruption of human rights to account is to call it out on home soil, and set the example around the world.
Implications for Legal Representation
The rulings that are brought about for the fine jewelry dealers are very clear––they must act in a way that is legal and source their loose diamonds in an ethical way. Failure to do so will be met with sanctions, and they will be effectively locked out of the jewelry trade.
Avoiding The Need For Litigation
One company that is working to completely bypass the need for such scrutiny with their diamond sourcing is Agape Diamonds. Rather than mining their gemstones, they are able to create that perfect diamond engagement ring by way of synthesis.
Their range of synthetic diamonds is only distinguishable to gemologists without an unaided eye. In fact, through their process, they can even eliminate the natural flaws that a mined diamond carries after being formed underground. Instead, using high pressurized lab conditions through vacuum chambers emulating the crushing nature of the Earth’s Crust, they can control the proportion and the qualities of the diamond’s beauty. The only variable that cannot be controlled in these cases, is the ring size.
With the reduction of conflict diamonds in the international market and the strict rules that new jewelers have inherited, synthetic diamonds are growing in popularity. As a result, we may see a paradigm shift in the primary form of diamonds in the jewelry market.