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Dublin: 14 °C Saturday 20 September, 2014

Naomi Campbell and blood diamonds: key moments of the Charles Taylor trial

The former Liberian leader will be the first ex-president to receive judgment from an international tribunal since the Nuremberg trials.

Charles Taylor at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Charles Taylor at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Image: AP Photo/Vincent Jannink

INTERNATIONAL WAR CRIMES court judges are due to deliver their verdict today on the case against former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

Taylor is the first former president since the Nuremberg trials to receive a judgment at an international tribunal – the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam, Netherlands.

Taylor was indicted in 2003 on charges of murder, terrorising civilians, rape, sexual slavery and recruiting child soldiers during the Sierra Leone war which ended in 2002. He is pleading not guilty on all 11 charges.

The trial heard evidence from Taylor over several months and received testimony from high-profile witnesses including actress Mia Farrow and model Naomi Campbell.

Here are some of the main moments in the trial:

  • Prosecutors accused Taylor of funnelling weapons and ammunition to rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leonein exchange for ‘blood diamonds’ mined by slave labourers
  • Taylor’s defence counsel Terry Munyard criticised witness testimonies in their closing statement: “In this case, there are so many examples of egregious implausibility and in a number of cases downright lies, we submit that it is appropriate to completely put aside several prosecution witnesses altogether”
  • Naomi Campbell said she had received uncut diamonds as a gift during a 1997 event she attended along with Nelson Mandela, Charles Taylor and Mia Farrow. She said she assumed they were from Taylor, but had no proof of that
  • Actress Mia Farrow told the court that the morning after receiving the diamonds, Campbell told those gathered at the breakfast table that the men who gave them to her had been sent to her by Taylor
  • Campbell’s assistant Carole White told the court that when the model told her at dinner about the diamonds, “Charles Taylor was smiling and nodding in agreement”
  • “I felt that my family’s life was in danger, Naomi Campbell told the court of her reluctance to testify which led to her being subpoenaed. “I read that supposedly thousands of people had been killed and I didn’t want my mother or my family to be in any danger”
  • Defence witness and convicted former rebel leader Issa Hassan Sesay apologised for his role in the conflict during his testimony in 2010:  “I say sorry to the people of Sierra Leone and I’m appealing to the people of Sierra Leone, especially the victims, who lost their loved ones, those whose arms were amputated, those whose properties were destroyed, I’m appealing to them that what happened during the war was not good for Sierra Leone, but it has happened. I’m just appealing to them”
  • The court heard evidence from witnesses to and victims of amputations which were considered the ‘calling card’ of rebels throughout the conflict
  • Prosecution witness Alusine Conteh spoke to the court about the attack in which his hands were cut off by rebels in January 1999. Conteh said that after they cut off his left hand, the rebels prepared to amputate his four-year-old son’s hand. “I said I would rather you cut off my second hand,” he told the court
  • Taking the stand in September 2009, Taylor claimed the allegations that he had been involved in ritual sacrifices and cannibalism were “as racist as it ever gets”
  • Taylor also blamed an international plot for his trial: “I am brought here by Britain and America. At this particular time in the world when there was Iraq and regime change, it was good to go into Africa, snatch one little leader from a small country, let’s set an example of him to show there is no impunity.
  • Classified US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed US concerns about the trial and one of the judges, suggesting that “as the only African judge”, she wanted to be the one to deliver the verdict.
  • The defence team argued that the Wikileaks revelations compromised the trial, but their challenge was dismissed by the court

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