Prosecutors cannot use new evidence alleging that former Liberian president Charles Taylor gave supermodel Naomi Campbell a diamond received from Sierra Leone’s junta government in 1997.
Today, prosecutors tried to introduce a document from actress, Mia Farrow, alleging that supermodel Naomi Campbell had informed her that Mr. Taylor had sent his men to give her a rough-cut diamond after they had all attended a dinner that was hosted by former South African President, Nelson Mandela. Defense lawyers for Mr. Taylor objected to the use of the document, arguing that while the document was a declaration made by Ms. Farrow to Special Court for Sierra Leone prosecutor, Nicholas Koumjian, there is nothing indicating that the declaration was made under oath or whether it was a sworn affidavit. Mr. Taylor’s lead defense counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, further stated that Ms. Farrow’s declaration that certain guests at the dinner, including Mrs. Mandela, raised concern about the presence of Mr. Taylor at the dinner, meant that the document was prejudicial, and that the best person to have made any statement about the transfer of the the diamond would have been Ms. Campbell herself, not a third party. Mr. Griffiths called the document “third-hand hearsay.”
“This document is complete nonsense. It is ridiculous. It should not be allowed in a court of law. It has no probative value and it is highly prejudicial, and in that situation, any tribunal of fact has the discretion to exclude it on that basis, and I so invite you to do,” Mr. Griffiths told the judges.
Despite prosecution arguments that “this document impeaches that categorical denial by this witness that he ever had any diamonds during the time he was in the NPFL [National Patriotic Front of Liberia] or president of Liberia except that maybe he had a couple of watches that had diamonds,” the judges ruled in favor of the defense, stating that the document cannot be used in the cross-examination of Mr. Taylor.
Reading the order of the chamber, presiding judge Richard Lussick said that “The document allegedly is a statement by a person as to what she was told by a second person who was relating what she was told by a third person or persons. The accused, of course, has had no chance to challenge any of the allegations in this document or cross-examine the alleged makers of the various statements that embodied the document now before the court.We find that the document is highly prejudicial and we hold that the the criteria that are required to be met for the use of the document have not been met. In other words, there is nothing put before us that would allow us to say that its use in cross-examination is in the interest of justice or that it does not violate the fair trial rights of the accused. We therefore uphold the defense objection and will not allow the document to be used in cross-examination.”
The objection to the use of the document came out of lead prosecution counsel Ms. Brenda Hollis’s question to Mr. Taylor about his September 1997 visit to South Africa during which he attended a dinner hosted by former South African president Mr. Mandela. At the said dinner, several celebrities were present “including well known music person Quincy Jones…Supermodel Naomi Campbell…And the actress Mia Farrow.”
Ms. Hollis put to Mr. Taylor today that while in South Africa, he had his men take a diamond to Ms. Cambell, an incident which Ms. Campbell reported to Ms. Farrow the following morning.
“From among the diamonds you took to South Africa, after this dinner that you attended, you sent your men to Ms. Campbell’s room to provide her with a large rough-cut diamond.”
Mr. Taylor dismissed the assertion as “totally incorrect.”
Ms. Hollis further pointed out that the diamond allegedly given by Mr. Taylor to Ms. Campbell was received from the junta regime that ruled Sierra Leone from May 1997 to February 1998.
“Mr. Taylor, that diamond that you sent to Naomi Cammpell was one of the diamonds that you had been given by the junta in Sierra Leone. Isn’t that correct?” Ms. Hollis asked Mr. Taylor.
“Total nonsense,” the former president responded.
In May 1997, soldiers of the Sierra Leone army overthrew the elected government of Sierra Leone and formed the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). The AFRC soldiers invited the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels to join their government and together, they ruled Sierra Leone until they were forcefully removed by West African peacekeepers in February 1998. The RUF on their part, had waged a war on the country from March 1991, a war that lasted for more than a decade. Prosecutors have alleged that Mr. Taylor was involved in a joint criminal enterprise (JCE) with the AFRC/RUF merger. During the existence of this JCE, prosecutors allege that Mr. Taylor received diamonds from the AFRC/RUF merger and in return supplied the rebels with arms and ammunition. On his visit to South Africa in 1997, prosecutors say that Mr. Taylor received diamonds from the Sierra Leonean rebels with a promise of obtaining weapons for them. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations.
As proceedings drew to a close today, Justice Lussick informed all parties in court that his one year term as presiding judge of the Trial Chamber has come to an end and when proceedings resume on Monday, Ugandan born Justice Julia Sebutinde will occupy the role of presiding judge of the chamber for another year.
Mr. Taylor’s cross-examination continues on Monday.