Africa

Sierra Leone plea for 'blood diamonds' return

Naomi Campbell (left) is sworn in at The Hague, 5 August (video grab)
Image caption Ms Campbell said she did not know who had sent the stones

Sierra Leone's human rights commission has called on South Africa to hand over uncut diamonds allegedly given to supermodel Naomi Campbell.

The war crimes trial of Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor has heard claims he gave her "blood diamonds" thought to originate in Sierra Leone.

Three stones were reportedly passed to South African police last week.

The rights commission said the sale of the diamonds could help thousands of people affected by the civil war.

"If these stones are the proceeds of conflict in west Africa, they should be converted into money which can be used for the benefit of the victims of the 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone," Sierra Leone human rights commissioner Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff told the BBC.

The official fund to help victims has so far raised only $45,000 (£29,000), she pointed out.

Prosecutors at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague say Mr Taylor traded with rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone, giving them weapons in return for diamonds.

'Dirty-looking stones'

Mr Taylor is accused of giving Ms Campbell the diamonds after a 1997 dinner in South Africa.

The supermodel said she had received a pouch containing a few "dirty-looking stones" from two strangers in the middle of the night without knowing who sent them.

Image caption Mr Taylor denies trading in illegal diamonds

She then gave the stones to a friend, South African businessman Jeremy Ractliffe, who was head of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund at the time, she said.

Other witnesses have said the stones were a gift to Ms Campbell from Mr Taylor.

Mr Ractliffe has said he passed them on to police this month.

Mr Taylor faces 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, all of which he denies, over his alleged role in the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone.

He has denied having anything to do with the trade in "blood diamonds".

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