Supermodel Naomi Campbell defended her testimony at the war crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, saying Wednesday she had no motive and “nothing to gain.”
Campbell testified last week at the Special Court for Sierra Leone at The Hague, Netherlands, regarding a pouch of diamonds she received in 1997.
Prosecutors, who are trying to prove that Taylor used “blood diamonds” to fund a brutal civil war in Sierra Leone, allege the diamonds came from Taylor.
“I’ve no motive here. Nothing to gain,” Campbell said in a statement Wednesday. “I am a black woman who has and will always support good causes, especially relating to Africa.”
Two witnesses who testified after Campbell, including actress Mia Farrow, disputed her account of the events surrounding the precious stones.
Campbell said she didn’t really know who Taylor was at the time she received the diamonds, since he had been elected shortly before. She pointed out she handed the diamonds over to a children’s charity the day after receiving them.
“These events took place 13 years ago, many years before Taylor’s alleged wrongdoings were known,” the statement read.
Campbell was criticized for saying on the stand last week that her appearance at the trial was “a big inconvenience,” and she said Wednesday it was “a poor choice of word.” But she said it was an off-the-cuff remark that “was taken massively out of context.”
She said she “was as helpful towards the court as she could be.”
Blood diamonds are mined in conflict zones and used to fund fighting. Prosecutors at the U.N.-backed court are trying to prove Taylor used rough diamonds for “personal enrichment and arms purchases,” according to court documents.
Campbell, who has been pictured this week on holiday with a group including Leonardo DiCaprio — star of the 2006 movie “Blood Diamond” — testified that she passed the stones to a friend, Jeremy Ratcliffe, a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.
She said she asked him to use the diamonds in a charity auction to raise money for underprivileged children.
Ratcliffe handed the diamonds over to South African police last week. He said in a statement he had held onto them to protect the reputations of Campbell and the charity.
Campbell testified she did not know the diamonds were from Taylor, but her former agent disputed that in testimony Tuesday.
Carole White told the court that when Campbell met with Ratcliffe to hand over the diamonds, she told him she had received them from Taylor.
Farrow also testified that Campbell was aware of their source. She testified Monday that Campbell told the story at breakfast the next morning.
“She said that in the night she had been awakened,” Farrow testified. “Some men were knocking at the door and they had been sent by Charles Taylor and they were giving her — they had given her a huge diamond. And she said that she intended to give the diamond to Nelson Mandela’s children’s charities.”
Taylor, 62, was president of Liberia from 1997 to 2003. The war crimes charges against him stem from the widespread murder, rape and mutilation that occurred during the civil war in Sierra Leone, fought largely by teenagers who were forced to kill, given addictive drugs to provoke violent behavior and were often instructed to rape and plunder.
Taylor is charged with five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, enslavement and sexual slavery and violence. He also faces five counts of war crimes, including acts of terrorism and torture, and one count of other serious violations of international humanitarian law.
He has pleaded not guilty.