Supermodel Naomi Campbell Subpoenaed, Prosecutors to Reopen Case

The following originally appeared on the Charles Taylor trial blog, a project of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

British supermodel Naomi Campbell is to be served a subpoena and compelled to testify on July 29 in the trial of Charles Taylor about an alleged diamond gift she received from the former Liberian president in South Africa in 1997, Special Court for Sierra Leone judges ruled this week. The subpoena was issued after judges agreed that prosecutors could re-open their case with a select cast of high profile witnesses.

Ms. Campbell, along with her former agent, Carole White, and Hollywood actress Mia Farrow, are slated to be called as witnesses as prosecutors get another chance to try to show that Mr. Taylor can be held responsible for crimes committed by Sierra Leonean rebel forces during that country’s bloody 11-year conflict.

Among prosecution allegations is the claim that Mr. Taylor gave the rebels weapons and ammunition — which they then used to commit crimes and fuel a brutal conflict in the West African nation – in exchange for diamonds. Prosecutors say that Mr. Taylor had a joint plan with the rebels because of which he could enrich himself with Sierra Leone’s diamond wealth, while also being in a position of command over the rebels from his neighboring country – and thus in a  position to prevent or punish their crimes as they wreaked havoc across the nation. Mr. Taylor has denied all allegations against him.

After prosecutors closed their case in February 2009, allegations surfaced that Mr. Taylor had sent men to deliver rough cut diamonds to Ms. Campbell in her hotel room after they both had attended a dinner hosted by former South African president Nelson Mandela in 1997.  Ms. Farrow had recounted the story to prosecutors in November 2009.  Ms. Campbell, however, had refused to speak to prosecutors about the allegations.

This week, Special Court judges agreed that the prosecutors could re-open their case to explore this incident.  Prosecutors say that the allegations, if true, could piece important events together: they say that Sierra Leonean rebels had come to see Mr. Taylor in Liberia the month before he left for his South African trip with diamonds that they wanted him to exchange for weapons during his travels.  A month after Mr. Taylor returned, a shipment of weapons arrived for the rebel forces.  If the allegations about Ms. Campbell are true, it could place Mr. Taylor in possession of the diamonds at a key time.  Mr. Taylor has denied the allegations, and also denied possessing any diamonds, beyond personal jewelry, during his presidency.

On Thursday, the judges issued the subpoena, addressed to the supermodel, stating that she must appear to testify on July 29, or “show good cause” why she could not comply with the subpoena.

The judges also requested the “Registrar of the Special Court to serve the subpoena on the legal representative of Ms. Naomi Campbell, Mr. Gideon Benaim…and to take any further necessary measures to have this subpoena served and executed, seeking the assistance of authorised representatives of the Government of the United Kingdom where appropriate, and to ensure that…Naomi Campbell, appear[s] at the time and place indicated above.”

The subpoena was issued a day after judges decided the prosecution could re-open its case for a day.  Prosecutors in their application had stated that they want to bring in Ms. Campbell, Ms. White and Ms. Farrow to testify for one day about the incident relating to the alleged diamond gift in South Africa.  In their motion to the judges, prosecutors argued that the evidence the three women can provide “was unknown to the prosecution when it formally closed its case on 27 February 2009? and relates to “a ‘central issue’ to the prosecution’s case: The Accused’s possession of rough diamonds.”

Mr. Taylor’s lawyers had opposed the request, telling judges that “no reasonable Court could find that the anticipated evidence is relevant to the charges against Mr. Taylor.” Defense lawyers also argued that the prosecutors should have made greater efforts to seek evidence before their case was over about Mr. Taylor’s trips outside Liberia and his alleged possession of rough diamonds. “Thus the prosecution Motion must be denied,” defense lawyers said.

On Wednesday, the judges ruled in favor of the prosecution, allowing them to re-open their case and bring new evidence against the former Liberian president. According to the judges, the requirements for a party to reopen its case in such a situation are twofold:

  1. “The party  must meet the threshold test of establishing that the evidence could not, with reasonable diligence, have been obtained  and presented during its case  in chief,” and if this test is met:
  2. “The Trial Chamber must be of the view that the probative value of the evidence is not substantially outweighed by the need to ensure a fair trial.”

The judges held that prosecutors only received information about the alleged diamond gift in June 2009 — “well after [the prosecution] had closed its case” and had since been unable to contact Ms. Campbell.

“Accordingly, the Trial Chamber is satisfied not only that the Prosecution has shown that it could not, with reasonable diligence, have obtained and presented the fresh evidence during its case in chief, but that it subsequently acted with reasonable diligence to obtain such evidence,” the judges stated.

The judges also thought the three high profile witnesses may offer valuable information.

“The Trial Chamber, having perused the declaration of Mia Farrow and the interview notes of Carole White, is satisfied that the proposed fresh evidence is highly probative and material to the indictment,” according to Wednesday’s decision.

Judges were also not concerned that testimony of the three extra witnesses would be unfair to Mr. Taylor.  His defense team had known about Ms. Farrow’s statement since December 2009 and about Ms. White’s evidence before prosecutors did. Since the prosecutors were asking for one day to complete their examination of the three witnesses, it would not cause any undue delay.

“The Trial Chamber is also satisfied that no injustice would be caused to the Defense by such re-opening in that it will be entitled to test the evidence of the proposed witnesses by cross-examination and may apply for time to make further investigations and call further evidence if necessary,” the judges said.

“Accordingly, the Trial Chamber finds that this is an appropriate case for the Trial Chamber to exercise its discretion to allow the Motion, in that the proposed fresh evidence is not substantially outweighed by the need to ensure a fair trial,” the judges concluded in their ruling.

Earlier on Monday, Mr. Taylor’s fifteenth witness, DCT-190 concluded his testimony, denying suggestions that he had received amounts of money from the Witness and Victims Services (WVS) section of the court as an incentive for his testimony, stating instead that monies provided to him were mainly to for his medical services, transportation and accommodation. He said that he did not physically see the money paid for these services on his behalf.

As prosecution counsel, Kathryn Howarth, pointed out that a total amount of 2,772,000  Leones (about $706) was spent on the witness based on the document provided by WVS, the witness responded that “I’ve never received that amount of money. The money they are claiming, one of it was paid for medications, so I’ve not received that kind of money.”

The witness explained that if the money was spent on him, it could be justified because he would not be expected to leave his job, pay his way to Freetown and then pay his own accommodation bills without any support from the court. He, however, denied receiving physical cash from court officials.

On Monday, July 12, a defense witness, DCT-172, described by defense lawyers as a “major” defense witness will take the witness stand. The witness currently has protective measures and so his name has not been disclosed to the public.

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