Naomi Campbell summoned to testify in war crimes trial

2010-07-02 10:30

An international court has subpoenaed reluctant supermodel Naomi

Campbell to testify this month in the war crimes trial of former Liberian

president Charles Taylor. Taylor allegedly gave the supermodel a rough diamond

in 1997.

The court warned the supermodel on Thursday that she could be

jailed for up to seven years if she refused to testify.

Prosecutors want Campbell to comment on whether Taylor gave her a

rough, or uncut, diamond as a gift during a celebrity-packed 1997 reception in

South Africa hosted by then-president Nelson Mandela.

They contend that her testimony will support their contention that

Taylor lied when he testified that he never possessed rough diamonds.

Prosecutors assert that Taylor dealt in so-called blood diamonds.

Blood diamonds are mined in war zones and the proceeds are used to finance

insurgency.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone issued the order forcing

Campbell to testify after she avoided prosecutors for a year and made it known

that she had no wish to be part of the case.

She was ordered to appear in court in The Hague on July 29 at 9am

“or show good cause” why she could not comply with the subpoena.

Refusal could lead to prosecution for contempt, which carries a

maximum seven-year prison sentence and a fine of 2 million Sierra Leone leones

(R3 900), according to the subpoena released by the court.

The appearance of Campbell – as well as the model’s former agent,

Carole White, and actress Mia Farrow, who do not appear to have resisted

testifying – will add a touch of glitz to a case already seen as a landmark. It

is the first time a former African head of state has been put on trial by an

international court.

The court said the summons would be delivered to Campbell’s lawyer

in London, Gideon Benaim, who has told the court he would accept it.

Nonetheless, the subpoena said, British authorities might be asked

to “ensure that, you, Naomi Campbell, appear at the time and place indicated

above”.

Prosecutors had complained to the judges that they had tried

unsuccessfully to contact Campbell several times since June 2009, when they

received information that Taylor had given her the rough diamond.

“The prosecution has shown that there is at least a good chance

that the information to be provided by Ms Campbell would be of material

assistance to its case,” said an earlier ruling dated Wednesday.

It cited Campbell’s public statements that she “does not want to be

involved in the case”.

Taylor is accused of supporting rebels in Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002

civil war, which claimed 500 000 lives through killings, systematic mutilation

or other atrocities. Some of the worst crimes were committed by child soldiers

who were drugged to desensitise them.

In return for helping the rebels, prosecutors say Taylor plundered

the neighbouring country of its timber and mineral wealth, including gems that

became known as “blood diamonds”.

His trial is being held in The Hague for fear of renewed violence

if hearings were conducted in Sierra Leone.

After several false starts, it began in earnest in January 2008.

Taylor’s own testimony took seven months.

Defence attorneys objected to the request to summon Campbell,

arguing that the prosecution had concluded its case 18 months ago and that

Campbell’s story was irrelevant since she could not testify to any connection

between the diamond and Taylor’s alleged involvement with Sierra Leone rebels.

The court ruled earlier this week, however, that the prosecution

could summon the three women.

Farrow already has given a written statement to the court that

Campbell told her about the gift, but the judges refused to accept the statement

when the prosecution tried to introduce it as evidence last January.

Under cross-examination, Taylor said the story was “totally

incorrect”.


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