The courtroom used by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in The Hague (Leidschendam) has rarely, if ever, been so busy with journalists from all over the world following the Charles Taylor trial. The eagerly awaited testimonies of Naomi Campbell and Mia Farrow have been widely broadcast by the international media. Unfortunately however, with these celebrities stepping into the witness box, it seems that the trial is sliding into a soap opera, completely losing sight of the fact that the SCSL was set up for the victims, their families, towns, and districts, as the former SCSL prosecutor David Crane put it. The contradictory statements made before the court by Naomi Campbell and Mia Farrow about the issue whether Mrs. Campbell received diamonds from Mr. Taylor or not, seem to not have brought the case any further, save for temporarily diverging attention from the bigger issues involved therein.
One is left with the impression of a too obvious an attempt by Mrs. Campbell to avoid her name being associated with blood diamonds. While memory is certain to fade 13 years after the event, it is difficult to believe that after having been awoken in the middle of the night by strangers, one accepts a pouch without asking from whom it was, puts it next to the bed and goes to sleep!
Worrisome here is the lack of diligence of the media to continuously and responsibly report on international criminal justice and its less well-known institutions, such as the SCSL. Where were they when Charles Taylor himself was being cross-examined?! While the media did not devote much attention to the work of the SCSL earlier on, out of a sudden is all over it – its interest in the proceedings revolving around celebrities! Do we really care about the victims? Or are we more interested in the number of the viewers? I guess what we all learned now is that if international criminal justice proceedings want to secure media attention, involvement of celebrities might help!!!!
Naomi Campbell doesn’t want to be associated with blood diamonds, but she abuses her assistants? Would anyone actually believe her testimony here? What a waste of the court’s time.
At least the court gets some attention and the public becomes aware that there is such a thing as International Law and this thing becomes increasingly relevant.
Genty, I completely agree about the shameless lack of press attention focused on international criminal justice when a celebrity isn’t involved. I also agree that much of the media has treated these latest events as spectacle and not focused on the real issues at hand. Ms. Campbell was, at the end of the day, brought to court to establish a concrete evidentiary point– Mr. Taylor’s possession of rough diamonds, a charge he and his defense team have vigorously denied. In any case, the real focus should be on the larger implications of Ms. Campbell’s testimony — namely the nexus between affluent Western economies and consumers and resource-based conflict in the developing world. For some more on this perspective, see