photo by ENOUGH Project (Flickr Creative Commons)

Supermodel Naomi Campbell has been in the headlines lately for allegedly receiving ‘blood diamonds’ from former Liberian leader Charles Taylor at a 1997 celebrity dinner in South Africa, hosted by then President Nelson Mandela.

Charles Taylor was reputedly paid in blood diamonds by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone, a rebel group responsible for widespread atrocities – such as using child soldiers and hacking off victims’ limbs – during Sierra Leone’s civil war.

Taylor himself currently faces 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, including murder, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers.

From an article in the Independent:

Taylor is accused of being criminally responsible for countless atrocities in which innocent victims were shot, hacked and burned to death, and subjected to horrific acts of sexual violence.

Naomi Campbell testified in the Hague today that she received some dirty looking stones after the 1997 dinner in South Africa from two men who she was later told worked for Charles Taylor.

From a BBC News report:

She gave the stones to Jeremy Ratcliffe of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund because she wanted them to go to charity, and said when she spoke to Mr Ratcliffe on the telephone in 2009, he said he still had them.

Campbell’s involvement in Taylor’s trial has brought the issue of blood diamonds and other conflict minerals – minerals that fund wars in poor and undemocratic countries – to the media’s forefront. This is in turn heating up the political pressure for countries to stop all trade in conflict minerals.

A new provision signed by US President Barack Obama requires US companies to submit annual reports to the government divulging whether their products contain minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo or neighboring states.

[…] in the Democratic Republic of Congo, armed groups that murder and rape civilians trade minerals such as gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum taken from mines under their control for weapons, money and other resources. Some of these minerals end up in cellphones and computers sold in the United States.

–Elisa Massimino in the LA Times

And not just the United States, obviously, but anywhere in the entire world where mobile phones, computers and other electronics are bought and sold.

The opposition ‘red-green’ coalition in Sweden has also called for a similar measure to prevent Swedish companies from trading in conflict minerals. The coalition is made up of Sweden’s Social Democratic, Left and Green parties. They have promised in a press release to adopt such a measure should they win Sweden’s forthcoming national elections in September.

Read more about this crucial and often-ignored issue in the below-linked article for the LA Times by the president and chief executive of Human Rights First, Elisa Massimino.

Blood diamonds: Why Naomi Campbell’s testimony at The Hague matters

Additional resources:

BBC News – Extracts from Naomi Campbell’s testimony

Enough Project