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Sierra Leone: Human Rights Commissioner Asks Return of Blood Diamonds

(Aug. 19, 2010) Sierra Leone's Human Rights Commissioner, Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff, recently called for the return of the “blood diamonds” that internationally known model Naomi Campbell was given by Charles Taylor in 1997. Campbell has testified that she gave the gems to the director of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, who in turn gave them to the South African police. At the time, Taylor was President of Liberia; he now is accused of war crimes. Jusu-Sheriff asked the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague and the Government of Sierra Leone to work on the issue, stating, “[w]e have urged both parties to contact the South African government for the diamonds to be handed over to Sierra Leone.” (SLeone Group Wants Return of Campbell Diamonds, AFP (Aug. 12, 2010),
; The Special Court for Sierra Leone website, (last visited Aug. 16, 2010).)

Jusu-Sheriff has stated that the purpose in seeking the recovery of the gems is to sell them to raise money for that country's War Victims Fund. She added that although “over 82 million dollars have been spent so far on the trial, less than 45,000 dollars have actually been paid into the fund which was set up in 2009.” (AFP, supra.) Most of the funding for victims has come from the Sierra Leone government and its citizens. Both Campbell and actress Mia Farrow, who also testified at the trial, have been asked to make donations to the war victims. (Id.)

Taylor is being tried on 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious charges by the Special Court. He was indicted in 2003; the trial began on January 6, 2008. (Open Justice Society Initiative, The Trial of Charles Taylor, (last visited Aug. 16, 2010).) The charges stem from the allegation that Taylor armed rebels in Sierra Leone, which borders Liberia, taking payment in the form of illegally mined “blood diamonds.” Thousands of persons were massacred in the ten-year civil war in Sierra Leone, which ended in 2001. Taylor will not be given the death sentence if convicted; instead he will serve time in a prison in the United Kingdom. (Barry Paddock, Charles Taylor War Crimes Trial at The Hague Grips Liberian Expats in Staten Island Neighborhood, NY DAILY NEWS (Aug. 8, 2010),