Naomi Campbell has been avoiding international prosecutors for almost a year. But the long arm of the law finally caught up with the supermodel after judges ruled she must take to the witness stand in the war crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
In a ruling published yesterday, judges of the Special Court for Sierra Leone ordered a subpoena to be served on Ms Campbell and if necessary to enlist the help of law enforcement agencies to make sure she gets to court.
Ms Campbell will appear along with the actress Mia Farrow and the model's former agent Carole White, who do not appear to have resisted testifying, in a case already seen as a landmark, the first time a former African head of state has been put on trial by an international court.
Prosecutors complained to the judges that they had tried unsuccessfully to contact Ms Campbell several times since June 2009, when they received information that Mr Taylor had given her a blood diamond as a gift during a celebrity-packed 1997 reception in South Africa hosted by then-president Nelson Mandela.
They said Ms Campbell's testimony would support their contention that Mr Taylor lied when he testified that he never possessed rough diamonds.
"The prosecution has shown that there is at least a good chance that the information to be provided by Ms Campbell would be of material assistance to its case," said the ruling.
It cited Ms Campbell's statements that she "does not want to be involved in the case." It did not say when she would be required to appear, but it would not be until the defence finished calling its witnesses, probably next month.
Mr Taylor is accused of supporting rebels in Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war, which claimed an estimated 500,000 victims of killings, mutilation or other atrocities, with some of the worst crimes committed by child soldiers who were drugged to desensitise them.
His trial is being held in The Hague for fear of renewed violence if hearings were conducted in Sierra Leone. After several false starts, it began in January 2008. Mr Taylor's own testimony took seven months.
Defence lawyers objected to the request to summon Ms Campbell, arguing that the prosecution had concluded its case 18 months ago and that Ms Campbell's story was irrelevant since she could not testify to any connection between the diamond and Mr Taylor's alleged involvement with Sierra Leone rebels. The court ruled earlier this week, however, that the prosecution could summon the three women.
Ms Farrow has given a written statement to the court stating that Ms Campbell told her about the gift. But judges refused to accept the statement when prosecutors tried to introduce it as evidence last January. Under cross-examination, Mr Taylor said the story was "totally incorrect."
On Oprah Winfrey's chat show last month, Ms Campbell said: "I don't want to be involved in this man's case – he has done some terrible things and I don't want to put my family in danger."