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Naomi Campbell diverts attention from bigger issue

By Brad Gardner - posted Monday, 23 August 2010

A supermodel, her former agent and an actress turned human rights campaigner all appearing at a war crimes trial. What’s not there for the media and a sensationalist-driven society to like?

Such is our obsession with celebrity that the trial of Charles Taylor, who is accused of 11 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, has been largely ignored since it began in 2007.

That ended when Naomi Campbell was subpoenaed to testify at the hearing over alleged blood diamonds she received from Taylor in 1997. Then came Carole White, the ex-agent, and Mia Farrow.


But it seems the media’s interest will only remain so long as a juicy angle involving Campbell can be squeezed out of the case.

Attention has now turned to covering the aftermath of the testimonies of the model, White and Farrow and what happened to the small number of diamonds.

But it’s a sideshow. While this goes on, the media is missing a much more important issue: thousands of dubious diamonds are currently flooding the market. And the regulator supposed to stop this from happening is incapable of doing anything meaningful.

Last week Zimbabwe began selling diamonds from its Marange field, which for two years has been the scene of rampant human rights abuses by the military against civilians.

As Human Rights Watch noted in its report, Deliberate Chaos, in June this year: “Police and soldiers, deployed by the government, massacred some 200 people as they seized control of the area. They beat and raped locals, forced them to mine for diamonds, and carried out other human rights abuses. Those responsible have not been held accountable.”

A 2009 report, Diamonds in the Rough, cited forced labour of children and adults, torture and claims of miners being buried alive.


Surely the atrocities were enough for the diamond regulator, the Kimberley Process, to take effective action.

Its role is to monitor the diamond trade to stop blood diamonds - those mined in conflict zones - from entering the market. Its membership is made up of 75 countries, including Zimbabwe.

Yet members only agreed in November 2009 to impose a short-term ban on the African nation. It was lifted on July 15 this year on the basis the abuses had ended.

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About the Author

Brad Gardner is a Brisbane-based journalist with an interest in foreign affairs, law and politics.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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