After much speculation, quite a bit of her usual tantrums, and finally a court-ordered appearance, supermodel Naomi Campbell finally showed up in court and testified at Charles Taylor’s trial at an international tribunal held in The Hague. The former Liberian president has been charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for leading Sierra Leone’s bloody civil war in the late 1990s.
Campbell was ordered to testify because she had allegedly received diamonds from Taylor in 1997; prosecutors are trying to show that contrary to his defense, Taylor indeed was in possession of a stash of blood diamonds that he used to help fund the brutal attacks–chopping off the hands and feet of victims was standard practice–of people in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Today, the Guardian reported that Campbell recalled the dinner party she attended in 1997 with Nelson Mandela and a host of other international celebrities: Mia Farrow, Quincy Jones, and Jemima Khan were there. Campbell recalled that after the dinner party at the Mandelas’ presidential home, she retired to her room, and woke to a knock at her door in the middle of the night. The way Campbell told it, two men presented her with a pouch. “A gift for you,” they said. Campbell didn’t look inside till the next morning, when she found a handful of “dirty-looking pebbles,” what she would eventually learn were diamonds.
Campbell testified that once she heard they came from Taylor, she handed them off to Jeremy Ratcliffe, who worked with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, so he could “do some good” with them. The charity today denied ever being in possession of any stones.
During her testimony, Campbell rushed through answers, anticipating questions and filling in parts of the story without waiting for attorneys to finish their line of questioning. Asked why she was rushing, Campbell repeated what she’d told the press: she didn’t want to be there. “This is a big inconvenience for me. I really don’t want anything to do with this,” she bristled.
She said that the stones she got appeared dirty, quite unlike the shiny and clear gems she was used to seeing. She testified that once she was told the stones came from Taylor, she never questioned the source of her gift, or investigated the matter further. “I don’t know anything about Charles Taylor,” she said. “I’d never heard of him before, never heard of the country Liberia before. Never heard of the term blood diamonds before.”
Her testimony contradicts that of her former assistant, Carole White, who said that Campbell did indeed know who Taylor was, and was seen speaking with Taylor during the dinner party that night.
When she was asked about that part of the night, Campbell responded: “That’s not true at all.”
Taylor is being tried in a U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. He’s been held in U.N. custody for the duration of his three-year trial.