Photo Credit: REUTERS/Special Court for Sierra Leone /Landov
Despite her reluctance, British supermodel Naomi Campbell testified Thursday in the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor in The Hague, answering questions about "blood diamonds" she allegedly received from the former Liberian president, who stands accused of crimes against humanity after hundreds of thousands were killed in neighboring Sierra Leone's civil war.
Campbell, 40, said that being in court was a " big inconvenience" for her, and claimed she had never heard of Taylor before the incident -- or the country of Liberia itself, for that matter -- nor had she heard the term "blood diamonds," which refers to gems mined in war zones to fund a violent conflict.
The 1997 incident being examined occurred when Campbell, along with her former agent Carole White and actress Mia Farrow, stayed at the home of Nelson Mandela following a charity dinner. Farrow stated in previous statements that Campbell told her two men woke her in the middle of the night to present her with a huge diamond, a gift from Taylor. White has said Campbell was actually given several diamonds.
Campbel, according to Reuters, told the court about that night. "I was sleeping and had a knock at the door that woke me up. Two men were there and they gave me a pouch and said: 'A gift for you'. I went back to bed. I looked into the pouch the next morning. I saw a few stones, they were very small, dirty looking stones." Campbell also claims she can't remember how many there were, "I really can't recall after 13 years, maybe two or three?"
Campbell testified, "I'm used to seeing diamonds shiny and in a box...If someone had not said they were diamonds, I would not have known they were diamonds." She also claims White and Farrow informed her about who bestowed the gift. "At breakfast, I told Miss Farrow and Miss White what had happened, and one of the two said, well that's obviously Charles Taylor."
Campbell claimed, "I assumed it was. I don't know anything about Charles Taylor. Never heard of him before, never heard of the country Liberia before. I never heard of the term 'blood diamonds' before."
And why did Campbell not immediately confirm who gave her the gift? She told the court, "I get gifts given to me all the time, at all hours of the night. Sometimes without notes. It is quite normal for me to receive gifts."
Campbell also said she never contacted Taylor after the "assumption was made" that he gave her the diamonds: "I did not consider contacting him. I did not know how. I had no way of contacting him and had no intention of contacting him."
After receiving the diamonds, Campbell claimed, "I didn't want to keep them" and she said she wanted to give them to charity to "do something with them." In 2009, the United Nations called her lawyer asking for the diamonds' whereabouts -- she claimed they were still in her lawyer's possession.
Campbell had to be subpoenaed a few weeks ago after refusing to testify (prosecutors plan to call White and Farrow next Monday) and said, "I don't want anything to do with this." (Campbell recently snapped at a an ABC journalist who asked her about the case). The supermodel said she resisted testifying because she worried about "the protection of my family."
"This is someone (Charles Taylor) that I read on the internet has killed thousands of people, supposedly, and I don't want my family in any danger in any way," Campbell said, "Obviously, I just want to get this over with, and get on with my life."