War crimes prosecutors cleared to call Campbell

June 30, 2010 12:00 am

, THE HAGUE, Jun 30 – A war crimes court ruled Wednesday that prosecutors can call supermodel Naomi Campbell to testify over a "blood diamond" she allegedly received from Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor.

Actress Mia Farrow can also be called to the stand over claims that Campbell was given a rough diamond by Taylor after a dinner hosted by former South African president Nelson Mandela in September 1997.

"The trial chamber hereby grants the motion" filed by prosecutors in May seeking permission to subpoena Campbell and Farrow, said the decision by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, based in The Hague.

Campbell has refused to be give evidence on the matter, but Farrow and the model\’s former agent Carole White were both willing to do so, the prosecution request to the court said.

The prosecution alleges the rough diamond was among those Taylor had obtained from Sierra Leone rebels and took to South Africa "to sell … or exchange them from weapons".

Taylor, 62, has been on trial in The Hague since January 2008 on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from the brutal 1991-2001 civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

He is accused of having fuelled war there by arming the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in exchange for "blood diamonds" — the name given to diamonds mined in rebel-held regions of Africa and sold to fund warfare.

The RUF is blamed for the mutilation of thousands of civilians who had their hands and arms severed in one of the most brutal wars in modern history, which claimed some 120,000 lives.

Prosecutors said they had not known about the Campbell diamond, which they consider "material" to the case, until June 2009 — by which time they had already closed their case, now in the phase of hearing defence witnesses.

Taylor has opposed the bid to reopen the prosecution case to call the women, saying in court papers the evidence they sought was "more appropriate for a screen-play than a courtroom hearing".

But a panel of four judges, having studied a declaration by Farrow and notes of an interview with White, found that the proposed new evidence was "highly probative".

"The trial chamber is of the view that the best procedure is to allow the prosecution to reopen its case so that the additional prosecution witnesses can be interposed between defence witnesses," said the ruling.


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