01/10/2015 08:33 BST | Updated 01/10/2016 06:12 BST

Blood Diamonds, Diesel Fumes and Politics as Usual


I think it's safe to say that most of us distrust politicians in general and we've come to accept that as the default situation which might, on a very rare occasion, be interrupted by some extraordinary sequence of events that allows an honest one to squeeze to the surface still breathing. Events in the UK in past few weeks with the contrasting political and moral trajectories of Jeremy Corbyn and David Cameron have reinforced that notion.

While we've come to expect less than straight talking or downright lies from political leaders we've always felt far more attached to and placed greater trust in our cars. But now even that refuge of comfort and confidence has been violated. Volkswagen has deliberately cheated regulatory authorities and lied to their patrons about the level of pollutants produced by their vehicles.

We have probably always known or suspected that cars wouldn't perform quite as good during normal driving conditions as they would under laboratory test conditions. But this is not another cooking the books financial fraud. In our car-infested, congested cities and towns this has direct and potentially deadly health implications, especially for the elderly and those inflicted with chronic respiratory illnesses, the most vulnerable members of society.

Those responsible for the scam were motivated by greed and the desire to win regardless of the cost. They didn't care about the impact of their actions on our living environment or those who would suffer as a result of their duplicity.

They are not alone. The diamond industry, including most if not all of the most famous jewellery brands, is complicit in a major fraud, conning consumers and covering-up the still legal trade in blood diamonds that fund rogue regimes guilty of grievous human rights violations.

Diamonds which generate revenue for government forces guilty of human rights violations were deliberately excluded from the remit of the Kimberley Process (KP) regulations which ban "conflict diamonds" - rough diamonds that fund violence by rebel groups.

Earlier this year the award winning journalist Rafael Marques de Morais was prosecuted by authorities in Angola for publishing a book exposing hundreds of examples of murder, rape, mutilation, torture and corruption associated with the government controlled diamond mining sector in Angola.

Most people would regard diamonds associated with such gross human rights violations as blood diamonds. But diamonds from Angola are Kimberley Process compliant and are sold by the most fashionable and up-market jewellers labelled conflict-free.

Angola chairs the KP in 2015 and will host a plenary meeting of the KP in November. The foxes really are in charge of the chicken coup.

For 51 days in 2014 Israeli forces pummelled the defenceless, besieged Gaza strip with thousands of tons of explosives from land, sea and air. Over 2200 people were killed, mainly civilians including over 550 children. Thousands more were maimed and terrorized. Members of the Israeli diamond bourse helped fund the attack and sent truck loads of equipment to the soldiers responsible for the carnage. The UNHRC, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza.

Israel is one of the world's leading exporters of cut and polished diamonds. The diamond industry generates about $1 billion annually in funding for the Israeli military which is guilty of serial human rights violations. Despite this, the jewellery industry has remained silent about Israel's dominant role in the industry.

In 2008 government forces in Zimbabwe reportedly killed 200 diamond miners in the Marange area. International sanctions were temporarily imposed to ban diamonds from Marange. When the Kimberley Process later certified diamonds from Marange the international NGO Global Witness withdrew from the scheme in protest.

Despite talk of openness, transparency and sustainability the jewellery industry continues to launder blood diamonds that provide significant revenue streams for rogue regimes. The industry has resisted all attempts to broaden the definition of a "conflict diamond" and ban diamonds associated with human rights violations by government forces.

EU member states are implicated. EU states are represented by the EU commission in KP. The EU, like all KP members, has a blocking veto and could force the KP to address the issue of blood diamonds that fund rogue regimes. However, given the importance of the diamond industry to Belgium and the UK, two of the world's leading diamond trading hubs, there is no political pressure to do so. On the contrary, politicians in Belgium were instrumental in getting the EU to lift the ban on blood diamonds from Zimbabwe.

Our political leaders won't act unless public pressure forces them to do so and the trade in blood diamonds will continue unchecked and unseen. Consumers, especially those in the fashion, film and media industry who are used to promote the industry, must questions the ethical provenance of the jewellery they wear and not allow the industry to fob them off with bogus claims that diamonds are ethically sourced and conflict-free.