1 July 2010

Liberia: Special Court to Subpoena Supermodel Naomi Campbell

British Supermodel Naomi Campbell should be served a subpoena to testify in the Charles Taylor trial about an alleged diamond gift she received from Mr. Taylor in South Africa in 1997, Special Court for Sierra Leone judges have ruled in The Hague today.

Prosecutors asked for the supermodel to be subpoenaed after she had refused to talk about allegations that the former Liberian president had sent men to deliver rough cut diamonds to her after a dinner hosted by former South African President, Nelson Mandela.

Prosecutors argued that Sierra Leonean rebels had given Mr. Taylor diamonds before his South African trip to exchange for weapons during his travels - those weapons, they say, would then be used to fuel Sierra Leone's bloody civil conflict during the 1990s.

Prosecutors had argued that Ms. Campbell's testimony is a "matter that goes to the heart of" allegations that Mr. Taylor was part of a joint criminal effort with Sierra Leonean rebels during the country's conflict.

They also say the allegations contradict "the accused's testimony that he has never been in possession of rough diamonds" and it would be important to hear Ms. Campbell's testimony.

According to prosecutors, several attempts to contact Ms. Campbell have failed and so the only avenue left for them to get her side of the story is for the court to issue her a subpoena.

Mr. Taylor's lawyers opposed the subpoena, arguing that prosecutors had not shown any "legitimate forensic purpose" for the supermodel's evidence.

His defense team also argued that "there is not a "good chance" that her anticipated evidence would be "of material assistance" to the Prosecution's case," and that her appearance was not a "necessity" as her evidence could be obtained elsewhere -- namely, through her friend Mia Farrow and her former agent Carole White, both of whom have expressed willingness to testify before the court on the same issue.

They also said her testimony would not be so valuable to the court, as no judge could reasonably make the link between "this alleged diamond and the accused's support for rebels in Sierra Leone as alleged in the indictment."

Defense lawyers also argued that it was "highly likely" that a subpoena may not be enforced, given that the Special Court lacks the power to compel cooperation. (The Special Court does not have its own police force to enforce orders of the court - it must rely on the help of other states. No state, except for Sierra Leone, is legally bound to cooperate with the court's decision).

Today, the judges decided that "Ms. Campbell's anticipated testimony relates to clearly identified issues that are relevant to the trial, namely, the Accused's possession of rough diamonds and his support to the AFRC/RUF junta during the summer-fall of 1997," and they are "satisfied that 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 in relation to clearly identified issues relevant to the trial."

The judges ruled that the subpoena for Ms. Campbell should be issued, and ordered that the Registrar ensure it is served on Ms. Campbell and to the "responsible authorities" of the state in which Ms.Campbell lives (the United Kingdom).

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