Media protest over Campbell war crimes privacy request

Lawyers have written to the International Criminal Court protesting at the manner in which it dealt with Naomi Campbell’s request for “protective measures” before she testified at a war crimes trial.

Mark Stephens, a partner with law firm Finers Stephens Innocent, wrote to the court – on behalf of an unnamed media group – about the supermodel’s request.

Campbell yesterday gave evidence to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is hearing a trial against former Liberian President Charles Taylor, where she admitted receiving several “dirty looking stones”.

Prosecutors in The Hague are attempting to link Taylor to illegal “blood diamonds” after accusing him of using their trade to fund a bloody civil war in Sierra Leone.

It is understood that Schillings, Campbell’s lawyers, made a request for “protective measures” which was apparently dealt with in private, either late last week or on Monday this week, with no media groups informed or invited to make representations.

Campbell submitted a shopping list of requests to the court for measures which her lawyers argued were necessary to safeguard her privacy and security.

According to the Special Court’s ruling, Campbell had requested that the media and the public to be banned from following, photographing, video-recording or sketching her “transit to the court within the Netherlands and that the government of the Netherlands be respectfully invited to assist in the enforcement of this protective measure”.

She also wanted her lawyers to be allowed rights of audience during her testimony – the court eventually allowed one lawyer to speak only in relation to the admissibility of any questions which could lead to possible self-incrimination by Campbell.

On Monday, Finers Stephens Innocent had tried to make representations to the court after discovering that the request of “protective measures” had been filed on Campbell’s behalf.

Its demand for information and a copy of Campbell’s requests received no immediate response, and had still not received a reply late yesterday.

It was only after the Special Court for Sierra Leone had reached its decision, which was posted on its website on Tuesday that the breadth of Campbell’s requests became clear.

Her lawyers had also sought a ban on members of the court staff or any of the parties making any reference to anything which happened within the Tribunal building, or within the court itself, with the exception of the broadcast of her evidence.

In the end the only orders the Special Court made were that Campbell could have one lawyer present and that the court’s registrar should liaise with a second special tribunal at the court to ensure nobody photographed or videoed Campbell without the trial chamber’s permission or that of Campbell.

Stephens said last night: “We started on Monday, writing letters and we were pushed round from pillar to post. Nobody has yet responded to or acknowledged any of our letters.

“We are now in the process of putting together a complaint to the President of the Court and also to the United Nations Human Rights Committee on the basis that this was an abuse of process.

“The person who is seeking these special measures ought to be putting on notice anyone who would be affected, including the media.”

Although the Special Court had made an order relating to Campbell entering and leaving the tribunal building, the order was not against the media.

Instead, it only required the registrar of the second tribunal to assist, Stephens said, adding: “There is nothing to stop the media taking photographs or filming.

“The limit of the order was because the staff in the tribunal building were really the only people over whom the court had jurisdiction in this matter.”

Solomon Moriba, spokesman for the Special Court for Sierra Leone – which is housed in the same building as the second tribunal, the Lebanon Tribunal, said the second part of the order, that staff should ensure that Campbell was not filmed or photographed as she entered or left the building, was not enforced.

Asked why the court dealt with the model’s application in the way it did, he said: “It was a private filing. But the trial chamber responded to that by filing an open response which was available to all journalists.”

He said the court had also received a number of requests from journalists about Campbell’s appearance as a witness – including requests for details of her travel itinerary, flight numbers and arrival time, which it had not answered.

The court was concerned to avoid Campbell’s appearance turning into a celebrity circus, Moriba said, adding that her appearance has sparked the most intensive coverage the trial of Charles Taylor had received since shortly after it started in June 2007, since when the prosecution had put up 95 witnesses before the start of the defence, which was now on its 19th witness.

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