Taylor's trial provides a model at The Hague

21 January 2008 by Thierry Cruvellier

Prepared, conscientious prosecutors, tenacious lawyers concentrated on the evidence, a chamber presided over with firmness and competence, pertinent witnesses: the trail of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, opened January 7 by a Special Court for Sierra Leone moved to the premises of the ICC at The Hague, has begun with dignity.

"All of this is about diamonds. This is what our case it about. This is why we brought Mr. Smillie," was the immediate chorus of the prosecutor. Canadian diamond traffic expert Ian Smillie taught English in one of the two major areas of diamond exploitation in eastern Sierra Leone from 1967-1968. At the time already, he remembered, "It was almost like a wild west. There were thousands of people who came to dig diamonds. It was all about diamonds." Thirty years later, in Ottawa, while the civil war had been ravaging Sierra Leone for eight years, one of his friends declared, "This is really all about diamonds, and as long as it is not dealt with, the war will continue." So Smillie devoted himself to this subject. In August 2000, he was part of a fiveperson panel tasked by the UN with investigating the diamond traffic between Sierra Leone and Liberia. These experts' report is the primary exhibit of the complicated puzzle the prosecution is trying to put together to get Taylor sentenced.

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