The Spanish authorities have arrested an American man, a sentence not often heard, but in this case the charges turn the stomach of most ordinary people. The American is being charged with enslavement, the stomach turner, and diamond pillaging during Sierra Leone’s civil war. This report comes from a victims’ association’s statement on Saturday.
Michel Desaedeleer, who holds duel U.S. and Belgian citizenship, is suspected of forcing enslaved civilians to mine for diamonds in Sierra Leone’s eastern district of Kono from 1999 until 2 years later in 2001. This is according to the Swiss-based Civitas Maxima.
During Sierra Leone’s long conflict, the diamonds were sent to neighbouring Liberia, where former President Charles Taylor, used the proceeds to finance weapons for rebels. This is where the name blood diamonds comes from, they were used to finance death and terror during the civil war and because of this there is more than a little discomfort about the issue.
“(The case) 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,” said Alain Werner, director of Civitas Maxima, which has been working for years to document the crimes and assist victims. He hopes that the precedent that can be set by this decision will allow for more blood diamond cases to be brought forward, and hopefully the financial actors as mentioned above can be brought to justice as well as the direct actors.
The Belgian investigation led to a European arrest warrant being issued against Desaedeleer earlier this year. He is normally a resident in the United States, the European warrant allows for him to be arrested continent wide and because of that he was able to be taken in to custody n Spain.
Along with the financial fudging which went on during the Sierra Leone conflict more than 50,000 people died in the 11-year conflict and countless more were left maimed by the notorious Revolutionary United Front. Taylor will now serve a 50-year sentence for war crimes and hopefully he will be the first of many of people convicted of crimes during the war and the diamond trade. This precedent means that the door is now open hopefully the authorities can force more of the guilty through that door.