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Lettre de Sean Clinton a Sothebys

Barrington’s Bridge


Co. Limerick


Saturday 12th January 2013



Re: Sotheby’s Diamonds linked to Israeli war crimes


For the attention of Mr. William F. Ruprecht, President and Chief Executive Officer, Sotheby’s and members of the Boards of Directors.



Sotheby's Code of Business Conduct and Ethics[1] sets out the standards which every employee is expected to comply with, in spirit and in letter, in order to ensure the highest ethical standards are observed in the operation of Sotheby’s business.


Maintaining the relationship of trust between Sotheby’s and its clients is clearly a fundamental tenet of the Sotheby’s business model.


So too is proper and prompt disclosure of critical information for investors and shareholders, which is not just an ethical obligation; it is also a legal one.


Given these facts, it is incumbent on Sotheby’s to consider the implications and ramifications of Sotheby’s relationship with the Steinmetz Diamond Group, not only for the reputation and integrity of the Sotheby’s company but for customers who purchased a Sotheby’s diamond in the belief they were being sold a conflict-free diamond and for those who may do so in the future.


Your patrons expect Sotheby’s diamonds to be of the highest ethical standards, untarnished by association with human rights violations either by rebel groups or by government forces. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme does not ban diamonds that fund human rights violations by government forces and cannot therefore guarantee a diamond is conflict-free – a fact confirmed in 2011 when the KP approved the export of diamonds from Zimbabwe where government forces stand accused of killing 200 mine workers[2].


Cut and polished diamonds that fund human rights violations are not regulated by the KP. The KP only bans rough diamonds that fund rebel groups engaged in conflict against legitimate governments.


Diamonds crafted by the Steinmetz Diamond Group are funding the Israeli military which stands accused of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity by the UN Human Rights Council. This information should not come as a surprise to you as the following facts are readily available in the public domain - some on the Steinmetz Diamond Group website:

  1. The Steinmetz Diamond group, through the Steinmetz Foundation, has “adopted” a Unit of the Givati Brigade of the Israeli military.
  2. The Foundation funded and supported the Unit during the Israeli assault on the defenceless, besieged residents of Gaza in the winter of 2008/2009 – Operation Cast Lead.
  3. Over 1400 Palestinians were killed during the assault, mainly civilians. Over 300 of those killed were children. Thousands more were maimed and traumatised during the three weeks of relentless bombing by Israeli forces from land, sea and air.
  4. A United Nations Human Rights CouncilFact-Finding Mission[3] into the assault found evidence that Israeli forces committed serious breaches of the Geneva Conventions amounting to war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.
  5. The Steinmetz-funded Givati Brigade was responsible for one of the most serious examples of gross human rights violations documented by human rights organisations and the UN HRC when 21 members of the Samouni family were murdered. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem describes[4] the incident as follows:

 “On 4 January 2009, at the start of the ground phase of operation Cast Lead, about 100 members of the extended a-Samuni family were huddled inside one house in the a-Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City. The next morning, an Israeli airstrike killed 21 people inside the house, including 9 children and 10 women, and injured dozens of other family members. During the next two days, the army refused access to medical teams, in spite of being informed of the terrible outcome by family members who managed to escape the bombed home and human rights and humanitarian organizations, including B’Tselem. When medics managed to get to site, they found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses, and evacuated several wounded people. The army refused permission to evacuate the bodies and they remained in the rubble for a further two weeks.”  

(The findings of UN Human Rights Council investigation into this incident are detailed at pp.159 – 166 of the report)

  1. On Dec. 20th 2012 Human Rights Watch reported[5] that the Israeli attacks on journalists in Gaza in November 2012 were “evidence of war crimes”. 

When information about the Steinmetz Diamond Group’s funding of Israeli soldiers during Operation Cast Lead came to public attention[6] in 2012 the company deleted all reference to this from the Foundation’s website[7] in an attempt to conceal their complicity in war crimes - but not before this screen shot[8] of the Foundation’s website was circulated on the internet.


Sotheby’s, through its partnership with the Steinmetz Diamond Group, is directly linked to Israeli violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. So too is anyone who purchased a Sotheby’s diamond – albeit unwittingly as Sotheby’s does not inform its patrons that Sotheby’s diamonds are linked to Israeli human rights violations.


Corporate social responsibility necessitates affirmative action by management to protect clients and company from exposure to moral and legal hazards. This recent article[9]  points out the legal responsibility which companies have to disclose all material facts to the stock market and investors in a timely manner.


Diamonds that fund regimes guilty of gross human rights violations evade the strictures of the discredited Kimberley Process which only bans “conflict diamonds” - defined as “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments.” Steinmetz diamonds may not be “conflict-diamonds”, but they are blood diamonds as they fund a military regime guilty of war crimes.


Human-rights activists in London recently hailed the removal of De Beer’s Forevermark Steinmetz diamond from the Tower of London as a victory for their campaign which exposed the links between Steinmetz diamonds and the Samouni family massacre in Gaza.


Sotheby’s should act immediately to disassociate itself from the Steinmetz Diamond Group and consider making reparations for its role in helping to fund the Israeli war criminals responsible for murder, destruction and terror in Palestine.


I look forward to hearing from you in this regard.


Yours sincerely



Sean Clinton


P.S .  Latest update: - Medical reports of the girl Amal Samouni, 15, show that her situation requires a serious surgical operation that cannot be accomplished in Palestinian hospitals


Reference Notes:


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