News / Africa

Supermodel Appears at Charles Taylor War Crimes Trial

Multimedia

Supermodel Naomi Campbell has testified in the war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor.  She told the court she received "dirty looking stones" after a dinner with Mr. Taylor in 1997, but she said they had not been given to her by the former president himself, and she could not be sure if the stones were diamonds.  

Naomi Campbell was called to The Hague to answer questions about an evening in South Africa 13 years ago.  Campbell's former agent Carole White and actress Mia Farrow have said Campbell was given an uncut diamond by Charles Taylor after a dinner party hosted by Nelson Mandela.

Her version of events

In court, Campbell recounted her version of what happened.

"When I was sleeping I heard a knock at my door, and I opened my door and two men were there and gave me a pouch and said, 'A gift for you.'" Campbell said.

She told the court she did not open the pouch until the next morning.  When she looked inside, she found what she described as a few "small dirty looking stones."

The prosecutor asked Campbell if she knew who the gift was from.

"No.  The next morning at breakfast I told Ms. Farrow and Ms. White what had happened, and one of the two said, 'Well that's obviously Charles Taylor.'  And I just said, 'Yeah, I guess it was correct,'" she said.

Campbell said she gave the stones to a friend who was then director of Nelson Mandela's children's charity. The friend, Jeremy Ractliffe, said Friday he has handed over the diamonds to South African police. In a statement, he said he had kept the stones since Campbell gave them to him in 1997.

Why she tried to avoid testifying

Campbell is one of the world's highest paid models.  She fought to avoid testifying because she said she was concerned about the safety of her family.

But the prosecution had hoped her evidence would show that Mr. Taylor received so called "blood diamonds" from rebels in Sierra Leone during the country's decade-long civil war.

Prosecutors say Mr. Taylor - then president of West African Liberia - exchanged the diamonds for weapons, which he smuggled into Sierra Leone.

He is accused of arming and commanding rebels who raped, murdered, and mutilated thousands of civilians.

Why her testimony was important

Elly Harrowell is from the natural resources watchdog Global Witness.  She says Naomi Campbell's appearance at the trial is important.

"I think in such an important trial, it's very important that every piece of evidence is considered.  I also wonder whether if it's a good way of focusing the world's attention on the issue of blood diamonds and on this very important trial by getting such a high-profile figure involved with it," she said.

She says the media attention given to Campbell's testimony is a boon for the fight against conflict diamonds.

"I think it's very important to bring to people's attention that the issue of blood diamonds is a very important one; it's something that is still going on.  We have got cases of conflict diamonds in Cote d'Ivoire in West Africa and also in Zimbabwe where hundreds of people were murdered in the Marange diamond fields recently," said Harrowell.

What's next?

Campbell's testimony is now done, but her part in the former president's trial is not over.  Carole White and Mia Farrow, who each have their own account of that evening 13 years ago, are due to appear in court next week.

Charles Taylor faces 11 war crimes charges, including for murder, rape, and recruiting child soldiers.  He says he is innocent on all counts.  

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs