Diamonds are a girl's best friend...

… Or so they say.  I’m not too sure that Naomi Campbell – this morning at least – was thinking that as she stood to testify at Charles Taylor’s trial at The Hague about rough diamonds which the former Liberian President was alleged to have given her.  

The arrival of the supermodel to The Hague has not only brought glamour (and a photo ban) to the Special Court; it has also reignited the media’s interest in this trial.  

This trial is certainly historic as Charles Taylor is the first former head of state to have been prosecuted in an international criminal court for war crimes committed in Africa.

Amnesty campaigned for several years for the former Liberian President to be brought to trial while he sought exile in Nigeria between 2003 and 2006.  Now facing trial, Mr Taylor stands accused of unlawful killings, mutilations, rape and other forms of sexual violence, sexual slavery, the recruitment and use of child soldiers, abduction, and the use of forced labour by Sierra Leonean armed opposition groups, which he is alleged to have actively supported.

A heavy list of crimes – the most serious crimes which one can stand trial for in fact. The conflict in Sierra Leone was brutal, bloody and fuelled by the desire for the sparkly gem. All the armed groups involved took part in diamond mining, and used the money from the diamonds to buy weapons and ammunition.   

The illicit diamonds trade has been tied up far too closely with human rights abuses and even though it’s nearly a decade since the end of the Sierra Leone war, many perpetrators have still not been brought to justice.  Charles Taylor is probably the most well-known suspect in the pack but scores of others are still roaming without risk of arrest.

Such immunity is unacceptable.

Amnesty is urging the Government of Sierra Leone to disregard the amnesties granted to the warring parties that signed the Lome Peace Accord, and to bring to trial those suspected of committing such dreadful crimes. We’re also calling on the Sierra Leone government to send a strong signal to the diamond industry that corporate impunity for crimes relating to blood diamonds will not be tolerated.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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