This is a video of Naomi Campbell refusing to answer questions about her relationship with the notorious Liberian warlord/president Charles Taylor, and about a large blood diamond Taylor allegedly gave the supermodel in South Africa in 1997.
Click to viewTaylor was implicated in bloody regional conflicts and Liberia's own civil war, even before coming to power in 1997 (he ran on the slogan, "He killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I will vote for him," and then entered into a vastly profitable joint mining venture with Pat Robertson, which the religious leader characterized as an aid venture). After a long flight from justice, Taylor is currently on trial in the Hague for war crimes. His indictment came not from the International Criminal Court, which is limited by statute to only prosecuting crimes committed after 2002, but from the Special Court for Sierra Leone. It concerns not any of Taylor's abuses in his own country, but his alleged involvement in Sierra Leone's 11-year civil war, which killed some 200,000 people. His ongoing trial — to give you an idea of the complexity of the case, Taylor spent a total of seven months on the witness stand — is tracked with meticulous daily updates. Taylor is accused of creating, financing, and arming a rebel group called the Revolutionary United Front, whose war crimes included the use of child soldiers, cutting off the hands of captured opponents and civilians, and the widespread rape and torture of women. One way in which Taylor is alleged to have been paid for arming the RUF is in blood diamonds. He is also alleged to have sold blood diamonds outside of Sierra Leone in order to fund the RUF (after taking a cut of the proceeds, no doubt). Which is where Naomi Campbell, and what may or may not have happened between her and some of Taylor's men in South Africa in September of 1997, comes in.
Prosecutors allege that Taylor, who says he was visiting South Africa for medical treatment, attended a charity dinner at the home of Nelson Mandela, and where other guests included Mia Farrow and Campbell. Farrow says that the morning after the dinner, Campbell came to her and said that in the night, men identifying themselves as representatives of Taylor had knocked on her door, awakening her, and given her a "a large, rough-cut diamond that [Taylor] had obtained from the RUF/AFRC forces in Sierra Leone."
However, for a variety of reasons — the fact that Farrow's statement was not a sworn affidavit, the period of time that elapsed between the 1997 incident and the allegation coming to light, and, most crucially, the supermodel's apparent unwillingness to confirm Farrow's account before the court — the allegation was ruled to be hearsay, and was never admitted into evidence. Taylor continues to deny that he received any blood diamonds from Sierra Leone, or that he brought any into South Africa. Mother Jones, which noticed the anecdote in the trial notes earlier this month, called Campbell "the King Leopold of the celebrity recolonization of Africa." We've come to expect a certain amount of unsavory behavior from Campbell, but as terrible as assaulting maids and drivers is, nothing really compares to taking a blood diamond from Charles Taylor and then withholding evidence from a war crimes tribunal. Farrow tells ABC News that the morning after the incident, Campbell told her she would donate the diamond to Mandela's children's charity. The charity says it received no such donation, but did receive $50,000 in cash from Campbell that year and in 1998. So did she keep the diamond, then? And why won't Campbell talk to prosecutors?
This particular blood diamond, out of all the illicitly traded stones that funded some of Africa's worst wars, and what Campbell did with it, is at the center of a report that will air on Nightline tonight. Apparently, it takes the involvement of a supermodel and a movie star to renew the American media's interest in the trial of a man who is responsible for the torture, brutalization, and deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
Naomi Campbell's Blood Diamond [ABC News]
Naomi Campbell Explodes After ABC News Asks Questions About 'Blood Diamond' [ABC News]
An Overview Of Charles Taylor On The Witness Stand [Charles Taylor Trial]
The Charles Taylor Trial [Official Site]
Naomi Campbell's Blood Diamond Surprise [Mother Jones]
An interesting blog about Liberia, written by a journalist based in Monrovia, is The Esteyonage.