Blood diamonds, also referred to as conflict or war diamonds, are diamonds that originate from war zones and end up being traded on the black market to fund rebel fighters and insurgencies. The practice is most often associated with conflicts in Africa.

The treatment of the workers in the conflict diamond industry is frequently reported as being inhumane, with rampant disease, violence and starvation.

The controversy surrounding blood diamonds was brought to light in the 1990s with civil wars in Sierra Leone, Angola, the Republic of Congo, and Liberia. During this time, blood diamonds comprised about 4 percent of the world diamond market, according to the World Diamond Council’s DiamondFacts.org website.

In the late 1990s, two significant events took place to regulate the diamond market. The first was that Robert Fowler, the Canadian ambassador to Angola, published the controversial Fowler Report, naming all the countries involved in blood diamonds and the corruption within the movement. This report raised international awareness, leading to the second notable event, the creation of the World Diamond Council in 2001. This council created the Kimberley Process, which changed the face of the diamond industry.

The Kimberley Process, officially created in November 2002, is a method that regulates the diamond trade. Diamonds that go through the Kimberley Process must be labeled as "conflict-free," with origin and ownership being validated. As of December 2009, 49 individual suppliers were part of the Kimberley Process, representing 75 countries.

Angola, Sierra Leóne, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, and Liberia are all countries previously considered to be conflict areas that are now part of the Kimberely Process. Côte d'Ivoire (the Ivory Coast) is the only country still considered to be a conflict area and diamond trade is currently prohibited.

As of August 2010, the former president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, was still on trial at The Hague for his participation in the blood diamond trade. He was charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes. The trial has attracted a large amount of publicity due to witness testimony from supermodel Naomi Campbell and actress Mia Farrow.

See also:

DiamondFacts.org

Conflict Diamonds on UN.org

MNN homepage photo: Special Court for Sierra Leone, via APTN/AP