Group wants return of Naomi diamonds

2010-08-12 13:58

Freetown - Sierra Leone's human rights body on Thursday urged the government and the special court in The Hague to "retrieve the blood diamonds" that Naomi Campbell was given by war crimes accused Charles Taylor.

"We have urged both parties to contact the South African government for the diamonds to be handed over to Sierra Leone," human rights commissioner Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff told journalists.

The British supermodel testified a week ago that she received a late-night gift of "dirty-looking stones" after a dinner in South Africa in 1997, and that "assumed" the gift came from then Liberian president Charles Taylor

She gave the stones to Jeremy Ratcliffe, then director of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. He held on to them, before handing the three small uncut diamonds on Friday to South African police.

"We want the gems to be handed over so that we can sell them and the money put into the country's War Victims Fund," Jusu-Sheriff said.

"At present there is some $44 000 in the fund's kitty," too little to help the victims of the 1991-2001 civil war in which 120 000 were killed and thousands raped and maimed, she added.

Taylor, 62, is on trial for allegedly receiving illegally mined "blood diamonds" in return for arming the rebels in Sierra Leone responsible for atrocities.

"While over $82m have been spent so far on the trial, less than $45 000 have actually been paid into the fund which was set up in 2009 and almost all of these monies have been paid by the government and Sierra Leoneans," Jusu-Sheriff said.

She added that letters had gone out to Campbell and Hollywood actress Mia Farrow, who on Monday challenged the supermodel's version of events, requesting that each make personal donations to the war victims' fund.