Rights advocates call on US jewelers to cease business with Leviev over ethical violations, 07/28/2008

Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East
Media Contact: [email protected]

For Immediate Release

Rights advocates call on US jewelers to cease business with Leviev over ethical violations
Leviev’s activities said to violate jewelry industry human rights standards

New York, NY – At major jewelry industry events this Saturday and Sunday in New York, human rights advocates called on US jewelers to cease doing business with Lev Leviev’s companies because they violate jewelry trade association human rights principles. The New York rights group Adalah-NY passed out hundreds of flyers detailing their case at Jewelers of America events this weekend, and engaged in discussions with industry members. Adalah-NY will continue this grassroots educational effort in the coming days at Jewelers of America New York Summer Show at the Javits Center.

The flyer features a photo of Leviev earrings with the caption, “More teardrops courtesy of Leviev.” Riham Barghouti from Adalah-NY explained, “Lev Leviev’s unethical business practices taint the entire jewelry industry. In keeping with their own codes of conduct, industry members should cease doing business with Leviev’s companies until they end their abuses in Angola, Namibia and Palestine. Some attendees at the Jewelers Association awards dinner and the summer show have been receptive to our call.”

The 11,000 members of the Jewelers of America (JA) are committed, through the JA’s membership in the Council of Responsible Jewellery Practices (CRJP), to a set of principles, based in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for sustainable development. Leviev’s companies appear to violate CRPJ principles on remuneration, physical abuse, the development of local communities, bribery, and respecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and indigenous peoples’ rights.

According to the Namibian newspaper New Era, some of the 200 striking and recently fired diamond polishers at Lev Leviev Diamonds in Namibia were paid less than $2/day, approximately half of Namibia’s prevailing average minimum wage. In Angola, security companies employed by Leviev were accused in 2007 of torture, sexual abuse and even assassination. A 2007 report on Angola by Partnership Africa Canada noted that diamond mining regions where Leviev has been a major player since 1998 are some of the most backward in the country, with few schools, little treated drinking water and poor roads. Vivid Collection, which was partly owned by Leviev, was sued for bribery, kicking off the on-going Gemological Institute of America (GIA) bribery scandal.

Leviev has also recently been renounced by Oxfam International and UNICEF due to his companies’ construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank in violation of international law. Companies owned by Leviev’s partner in settlement construction, Shaya Boymelgreen, are now being sued for war crimes in Canada.

Adalah-NY volunteers have given away 550 flyers to jewelry industry members in two days. Some industry members expressed interest, and asked questions. A few said that they knew of Leviev’s part ownership of Vivid Collection, and of the GIA scandal. One woman said she had already read about the issues surrounding Leviev on-line. Another man decried the gaps in the Kimberley Process, which focuses only on human rights abuses committed by armed groups opposing national governments, and ignores human rights abuses committed in places like Angola and Namibia where there are no active conflicts. A few expressed gratitude for the information. Most took flyers as they entered, and continued on without comment, perhaps to discuss later with colleagues. Only a handful expressed anger over the flyers.

Ethan Heitner of Adalah-NY noted, “We applaud jewelry industry trade associations for setting ethical standards reflecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Lev Leviev’s practices in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia appear to violate those standards. A similar pattern of abuse is also evident in his companies’ settlement construction in Palestine, in clear violation of international law. The jewelry industry should steer clear of Leviev’s businesses.”

For photos see: http://adalahny.org/photo-gallery/497/flyering-nys-jewelers-gala-nyc-07-26-2008
& http://adalahny.org/photo-gallery/498/flyering-nys-jewelers-convention-nyc-07-27-2008

Release Date: 

July 28, 2008

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