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Blood diamonds and war crimes: the conflict in Sierra Leone PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bruno Waterfield in The Hague   
Tuesday, 10 August 2010 11:17

Naomi Campbell gives evidence at the Charles Taylor War Crimes trial in the Hague: Over 120,000 people were killed and two million displaced in Sierra Leone’s civil war which was marked by brutal atrocities, the use of enslaved child soldiers and widespread use of amputation as a weapon of terror.  

 Right from the beginning the Revolutionary United Front, insurgents allegedly backed by Charles Taylor, a Liberian warlord later to become the country’s leader, based their violent strategy on seizing control of Sierra Leone’s diamond mines.

First operating from Liberia the RUF quickly established a reputation for brutality, beheading community leaders and raping women and children to terrorise the civilian population.

The signature terror tactic of the rebels was physical mutilation and an estimated 20,000 civilians suffered amputation, with machetes and axes being used to sever arms, legs, lips, and ears.

The RUF was also became notorious for its Small Boys Units, made up of child soldiers as young as eight who were forcibly recruited and then drugged and sent to fight with AK47 assault rifles. The children became among the most feared units in what became one of the world's most vicious civil wars.

It was an RUF assault on Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown in May 2000 and the taking hostage of hundreds of UN military observers that led to Britain sending 1,500 peacekeepers.

Two years later the conflict had ended after a Western intervention that still remains model military operation for humanitarians.

 

 ................................. More News ....................................

 

Naomi Campbell accused over Charles Taylor trial evidence

 By Joe Sinclair, Press Association - Thursday, 5 August 2010

 

Supermodel Naomi Campbell was accused of being not "entirely truthful" today after telling the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor how she was woken in the night and given a pouch containing "small, dirty-looking stones" following a charity dinner.

Giving evidence to the court in The Hague, Netherlands, Campbell described the proceedings as a "big inconvenience" and said she feared they would put her family in danger.

She told how two men knocked on her door in the middle of night as she stayed at the home of former South African president Nelson Mandela and presented her with a pouch containing gems.

Campbell is alleged to have received the gift after a star-studded party hosted by Mr Mandela in South Africa in September 1997.

The model said she discussed the incident with fellow guests the morning after the charity dinner and was told: "That's obviously Charles Taylor."

Campbell is said to have received a "blood diamond" from Taylor, whose faces charges including criminal responsibility for murder, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers.

The 40-year-old model, from Streatham, south London, refused to take part in the trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague until she was issued with a subpoena.

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

The 62-year-old, who denies all charges against him, is alleged to have used diamonds from the RUF to buy arms, which he allegedly shipped from Burkina Faso to the Sierra Leone junta at the Magburaka airfield in October 1997.


Taylor rejects allegations that he possessed or carried rough diamonds. Campbell said she had "read up" on Taylor using the internet and had not wanted to attend today's hearing.

"This is a big inconvenience for me. I really don't want anything to do with this and I care about the protection of my family," she said.

This is someone, I read up on the internet, that has killed thousands of people, supposedly, and I don't want my family in danger in any way."

Prosecutor Brenda Hollis questioned Campbell's account.

She asked the model: "Isn't it correct that your account today is not entirely truthful because of fear of Charles Taylor?"

Campbell replied: "No, that's not correct." The "cross-examination" of Campbell, as a prosecution witness, was branded "totally improper" by defence barrister Courtenay Griffiths QC.

In documents submitted to the court, actress Mia Farrow, who was also at the party, said Campbell had provided an "unforgettable story" of the incident the following morning.

She said: "She told us 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."

Farrow's story was backed up by the model's former agent, Carole White, who said she had even held the diamonds in her own hands. The pair are due to give evidence next week.

Speaking in detail about the gift for the first time, Campbell told the court that she was woken by two strangers and handed a pouch.

Asked what she thought the gift was, she said: "They were dirty-looking pebbles. I'm used to seeing diamonds, shiny and in a box."

She told the court that the men had knocked on her door and said: "There's a gift for you."

She said there were "maybe two or three" stones.

Campbell said she was told the stones were "probably" diamonds.

She "assumed" they were a gift from Taylor, whom she had met for the first time at that night's event.

The stones were in her possession for six hours before she gave them to Jeremy Ratcliffe, the former head of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, she said.

"Once I handed them over... it was out of my hands," she added.

The model insisted she had wanted them to be donated to charity but said: "He still has them so they didn't benefit."

Campbell denied being a "boastful person" and flirting with Taylor during the dinner.

"When I am with Nelson Mandela - and I think everyone in the world feels the same way - my focus and attention is on him," she said.

She was asked to identify her fellow guests. They included Taylor, Jemima and Imran Khan, Mr Mandela and his wife, music producer Quincy Jones and actress Farrow.

The court was shown a photograph of the group, in which Campbell stood alongside Taylor.

Under cross-examination by Mr Griffiths, Campbell denied speaking directly to Taylor, the former leader of Liberia.

"I spoke in general," she said. "I was interested in him. I had never heard of Liberia before. He said that he was the president of Liberia."

Documents from the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, which were presented in court, "categorically" stated that the charity had not received the diamonds, although records showed that Campbell made cash donations in 1997 and 1998.

The war, in the world’s poorest country, officially played out between 1996 and 2002 but the real conflict, and the Liberia backed and Libya trained rebels behind the insurgency, dated back to 1991. Over a decade of fighting, fuelled by the use of “blood diamonds” to fund insurgents, only ended after Tony Blair sent British troops into the country in an intervention later used to justify the invasion of Iraq. {jcomments on}

 

Editorial

2016 Global Peace Conference to be held in Freetown---as IPRA 50th Birthday confab ends in Istanbul

 

The 26th biennal conference of the Internatonal Peace Research Association (IPRA) is billed to take place in  Freetown, Sierra Leone in November 2016, marking the second time Africa has hosted the conference since the founding of IPRA in 1964. This was announced following the re-election of  the two IPRA Secretaries-general, Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (pictured) and Dr Nesrin Kenar, who co-ordinated the 25th  IPRA conference in Turkey,  at the organisation’s administrative meeting on August 14 during the 25th  IPRA  conference in Istanbul  to serve a second term of two years.

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Business News

Four illegal fishing cases found in Sierra Leone in four days

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, April 20, 2017/ -- Four illegal fishing cases have been found during a joint surveillance mission conducted by Greenpeace (www.Greenpeace.org/Africa/en) and Sierra Leone fishery authorities. Two Chinese vessels and one Korean vessel have been arrested for infringements of Sierra Leone fishing legislation, including possessing or using illegal fishing nets on board, no visible marking and a lack of required paperwork, including log books and authorisation for unloading catch. Fishing authorities ordered the vessels to return to Freetown port for further investigation. A fourth vessel, owned by an Italian company, was found with four kilograms of shark fins on board. Though not illegal under Sierra Leonean laws, this is a clear violation of European Union (EU) fishing rules. This boat’s case will be taken further with relevant EU authorities.

In addition, more than 70 bags of shark carcasses were found on one of the Chinese vessels.

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Press Freedom under Siege in West Africa: 30 Media Workers Arrested in 38 Days

The 30 victims, made up of 15 journalists and 15 media technicians, were arrested, detained and/or assaulted in 10 separate incidents in four countries namely Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Togo. Nigeria recorded six incidents, Cote d’Ivoire recorded two incidents while Guinea and Togo recorded an incident each.

In Nigeria, seven journalists were arrested and detained during the period. In Cote d’Ivoire, six journalists were arrested and detained in a single incident while one journalist each was affected in Guinea and Togo, bringing the total number of journalists affected to 15. In respect of the other media workers, nine staff of a newspaper printing firm were arrested in single incident. In Cote d’Ivoire, six technicians working with the state-owned television station were also arrested in a single incident.

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Commentary

A NEW DAWN FOR JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN SIERRA LEONE, PARLIAMENT APPROVES MELRON NICOL-WILSON AS NEW OMBUDSMAN

The Parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone has overwhelmingly approved the appointment of Mr Melron Nicol-Wilson as new Ombudsman, on Tuesday April 11, 2017. This follows him being named by H.E President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma as the replacement to Justice Edmond Cowan - a long-standing legal icon, who now chairs the Sierra Leone Constitutional Review Committee.

A man whose action speaks louder than words, Mr Nicol-Wilson has been appointed as new Ombudsman for Sierra Leone, a position reserved for high-profile people, who are well-respected and with unblemished character. Mr Nicol-Wilson has the typical pedigree of an Ombudsman, best known both in Sierra Leone and internationally as a champion for justice and human rights.  

The Parliament’s decision to approve Mr Nicol-Wilson was anticipated, as the high-profile human rights lawyer emerged unscathed from an exchange of views with Members of Parliament.

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View Point

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(The thoughts expressed in this article are purely and entirely the thoughts of the author)

Election in any democratic setting, include the enjoyment of those rights that will elicit the full participation of individuals in determining the political life of his/her country. An election is a decision making process through which eligible citizens(those who have reached the age of majority, 18 years and above and with sound mind) freely choose their leaders through the ballot box to hold public offices for a specified term.

Generally, people vote with the expectation that the office holders would represent their communitiesand or countries best interest.  Elections are viewed as a central feature of the rule of law, human rights, and democracy. Essentially, election is a testimony to peoples’ sovereignty and that ought to be respected and the process must be credible, otherwise there will be challenge with regards the acceptance of the result.

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News - Press Release

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April 24th 2017: On the occasion of the 56th anniversary of Sierra Leone’s independence, Movement for Social Progress (MSP) had requested the Sierra Leone Police to provide the necessary security for a peaceful Alternative Peoples Independence Procession and Rally that was planned to coincide with the official celebrations. The procession was planned to start from Clock Tower to Brima Atouga Stadium in the East end of the city while the official events are scheduled to take place in the West end of the city.

In a meeting with senior members of the Sierra Leone Police at the SLP headquarters, on Monday 24th April attended by the Inspector General, Francis Munu, the Head of Police Operations, Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Al-Sheikh Kamara, AIG Memuna Konteh Jalloh, AIG FUK Dabor, among others, the police top brass told members of MSP that they would not be able to provide security for the procession and rally.

The Inspector General of Police, Francis Munu, informed the meeting that they were overstretched with covering the official events, the traditional masquerade (or Odele) parade as well as the Lantern Parade on the eve of Independence.

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Society -Local News

Malaria continues to threaten more than half of the world’s population - Deputy Health Minister

Sierra Leone has joined other countries in the world to commemorated World Malaria Day on the theme: “End Malaria For Good” with the slogan: “Sleep under a Mosquito net always” on Tuesday April 25, 2017 at the St. Anthony Parish hall Brookfields in Freetown.

Launching the World Malaria Day 2017, the Sierra Leone Malaria Indicator Survey 2016 Report and the Sierra Leone Malaria Business Plan 2016 -2018, the Deputy Health and Sanitation  Minister 1, Madam Madina Rahman said malaria continues to threaten more than half of the world’s population and presents an alarming threat to global development.

She informed her audience that as of 2016, an estimated 3.2 billion people, almost half of the world’s population in 97 countries and territories including Sierra Leone are at risk of being infected with malaria.

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Development

LAB wants transports to allocate seats to the blind

The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles has disclosed plans to launch a White Cane Campaign in the coming weeks.

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles made the disclosure while addressing a cross section of the Waterloo Community including stakeholders at the District Council Hall on Monday, 24 April 2017 in a meeting to plan the launch of the Legal Aid Board in Waterloo in the WesternArea Rural District on 6 May 2017.

She noted that the campaign will seek to address the challenges faced by blind people in using public transport. ‘Blind people have been suffering in silence for far too long,’ she said. ‘They have been discriminated against because of their disability and this cannot be tolerated.’

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Politics

SAM SUMANA TRAVELS TO GHANA ON "EMERGENCY TRAVEL CERTIFICATE"
Former elected Vice President Samuel Sam Sumana left Freetown International Airport, Lungi late afternoon Wednesday April 19, 2017 onboard Kenya Airways on an "Emergency Travel Certificate",  en route to Abuja, Nigeria on or about April 23/24, 2017 for the hearing of his petition filed on October 24, 2016 in the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, "seeking an enforcement of his fundamental Human Rights arising from his unconstitutional removal from office, and for further orders contained in the application."
 
"This matter has been set down for hearing by the Court for April 26, 2017."
 
According to a spokesman for the Sam Sumana family Matthias Bendu who was with Sam Sumana at the airport until the aircraft was airborne because of advanced information reaching the family that there would be some problem awaiting Sam Sumana at the airport, Matthias Bendu told this Writer on the cellphone from the airport that Sam Sumana "was detained by Immigration Officers at the airport for more than thirty minutes  after the aircraft  landed, and it was due to the intervention of the Inspector General of Police Francis Munu who told the immigration Officers that Sam Sumana had not committed any crime and must be allowed to travel".
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