Diamond miners working, May 15, 2003, in a diamond mine outside Freetown, Sierra Leone ©Getty
Michel Desaedeleer died on September 28th in a Belgian prison. He was accused of being involved in the trade of « blood diamond » in Sierra Leone. He was arrested in Spain in August 2015 due to allegations that he committed a war crime, more precisly the inhuman and degrading treatment of people through his participation in the blood diamond trade with the former Liberian President Charles Taylor and the Revolutionary United Front (rebel group in Sierra Leone involved in the country’s civil war from 1991 until 2002).
There will be no trial for Michel Desaedeleer, even if it was supposed to take place in a near future. The international jurisprudence will thus not see its first trial dealing with crimes allegedly committed in furtherance of natural resource trade. Indeed, Desaedeleer was the first businessman arrested on international charges of pillaging blood diamonds and enslaving civilians and hailed the case as a landmark. As Alain Werner, the Director of Civitas Maxima said in 2015: “This is a landmark case, the first of its kind, and it will help to raise awareness of the pivotal role played by financial actors in the trade of mineral resources that fuel armed conflicts in Africa and elsewhere”.
The case was built against him by Luc Walleyn, lawyer in Brussels, Civitas Maxima in Gevena and the CARL (Center for Accountability and the Rule of Law). The work accomplished until now will still be usefull as the arrest of Michel Desaedeleer, his imprisonment and the beginning of the judicial process represent a victory for the victims who were enslaved.
The Trial Chamber of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone has denied former Liberian President Charles Taylor’s request to serve the remainder of his 50-year sentence in a prison in Rwanda.
On the 25th of March, the Public Information Section of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone issued a press release with the decision. Although the Trial Chamber had already arrived at its decision on 30 January 2015, it had waited with the public release of its decision as a related motion had still been pending.
Since his conviction was confirmed by the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (RSCSL) in September 2013, Mr Taylor has been incarcerated at Frankland Prison in Durham in the United Kingdom. However, all other persons convicted by the SCSL are serving their sentences at Mpanga Prison in Rwanda, and Mr Taylor is the only prisoner convicted by an international court forced to serve his sentence on another continent. Continue reading
In a recent post on Opinio Iuris, Kevin John Heller commented upon the motion by Counsel for Charles Taylor requesting that the former Liberia President be transferred from his UK prison to Rwanda.
The motion depicts Taylor’s mistreatment by the British government, illustrated by his isolation in jail where his family was given no opportunity to visit him. Moreover, this situation is exacerbated by menaces to Taylor’s life according to an anonymous letter possibly originating from within the prison itself threatening Mr Taylor with bodily harm and death.
Taylor’s Counsel draw attention to the situation of ICTY convict Radislav Krstic who suffered a near-fatal attack by his UK prison teammates in 2010. Krstic was then transferred back to The Hague.
iLawyer John Jones QC is Counsel for Charles Taylor.