Naomi Campbell granted special protection during war crimes trial

Naomi Campbell has been granted special protection when she testifies at a UN war crimes tribunal on Thursday over claims that she was given a blood diamond by Liberia's former president Charles Taylor.

The court ruled that no one may photograph or film the supermodel as she enters or exits the court building, or while she is in it. She will also have a lawyer on hand to make sure she does not say anything incriminating.

Judges said there were "legitimate grounds of concern" for Campbell's security and privacy because of her high public profile and the intense media scrutiny of her anticipated testimony.

A spokesman for the court in the Hague could not say definitively if this would prevent the model from being photographed by journalists on her way to the court. A request that restrictions be extended to her transit to and from court within the Netherlands was turned down as being outside the court's jurisdiction.

Measures to protect witnesses in war crimes cases are routine, especially when disclosure of their identity could endanger them or their families. Such witnesses testify under pseudonyms and with their images blurred in recordings of their testimony. But blocking the media from photographing a known witness is unusual.

The court said it was "in the interests of justice" to allow the supermodel extra help during her testimony from a lawyer with a limited right to intervene on whether to allow questions if she might incriminate herself by answering them.

She is due to appear on Thursday, but the court has not yet ruled on a motion submitted last week by Taylor's lawyers to delay her appearance.

Legal representatives for Campbell including the former director of public prosecutions Lord Ken Macdonald QC, had filed a confidential application to the court requesting a wide range of protective measures. Media lawyers questioned the court's decision. "These kinds of provisions in war crimes trials are quite exceptional," said Mark Stephens, of Finers Stephens Innocent. "She is being treated in a preferential way to other witnesses."

The prosecution called Campbell to testify after the actor Mia Farrow claimed the supermodel had told her that she had been given a rough diamond by Taylor in September 1997 while a guest of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

Farrow told prosecutors Campbell told her that "she had been awakened in the night by knocking at her door. She opened the door to find two or three men – I do not recall how many – who presented her with a large diamond, which they said was from Charles Taylor."

Taylor, 62, is accused of arming and controlling Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front, a rebel force responsible for widespread atrocities.

His alleged possession of rough diamonds is a "central issue" and supports allegations that he was given the stones by the RUF to buy weapons for them.

Taylor has pleaded not guilty to 11 war crimes and crimes against humanity. He has dismissed the Campbell diamond story as "total nonsense".

(Published by The Guardian – August 3, 2010)



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8/5/2010 - Supermodel Campbell testifies about receiving 'dirty-looking stones' - Click here.

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