The line between art and war crimes just got a bit fuzzier, as actor-activist Mia Farrow gave testimony that British supermodel Naomi Campbell claimed to have received uncut diamonds from Liberian then-President Charles Taylor, who is now on trial for war crimes.
A war-crimes trial with Ms. Farrow – famous for her very public divorce with Woody Allen and charges of incest against him – and Ms. Campbell – a supermodel known more for flinging cellphones at her staff than for her expertise on war crimes – was almost certain to bring attention to this trial.
But this, for once, appears not to be the main reason the two celebrities have been included in a trial that could have broad ramifications for human rights and the presidents who tend to abuse them.
Charles Taylor is the first former president to face trial for accusations of war crimes and abuses of human rights. At least 250,000 people died and many more were maimed during the civil wars of Liberia and Sierra Leone, in which Mr. Taylor is accused of playing a leading role in orchestrating.
Prosecutors say that Taylor used Sierra Leone’s rich diamond deposits to fund his war against Liberian opponents, and to keep Sierra Leone itself under his control.
Enter Naomi and Mia
Which is where Naomi Campbell and Mia Farrow come in.
At a 1997 dinner party hosted by South African President Nelson Mandela, Campbell and Taylor – himself newly elected Liberia’s president after a brutal rebellion – were seated together. Witnesses including Ms. Farrow and Campbell’s former agent, Carole White, say that Campbell later bragged about receiving uncut diamonds from Taylor, through unknown messengers late at night, but didn’t know they were from Taylor. Both Farrow and White contradict Campbell’s testimony.
"What I remember is Naomi Campbell joined us at the table but before she even sat down she recounted an event of that evening,” Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported Farrow as telling the court. "And she said that in the night she had been awakened, some men were knocking at the door. They had been sent by Charles Taylor and they were giving a huge diamond."
If the prosecution proves its case, Taylor could serve lengthy prison terms in Britain. His fate is being watched by numerous leaders, both in Africa and beyond. Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir is the first sitting president to be indicted on war crimes as well as genocide, and he could be arrested if he visits a country that is a signatory of the Hague Convention which deals with human rights.