Businessman nabbed for Sierra Leonean war crimes

A Spanish businessman living in Brazil, was on July 2 arrested in Málaga, Spain for his alleged participation in the illegal trade of so-called blood diamonds and for his alleged complicity in crimes committed during the civil war that ravaged Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002.

The Audiencia Nacional, the Spanish High Court that has jurisdiction over international crimes, sought the arrest of the Spanish citizen for his alleged role in supporting Sierra Leonean rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

During the civil war, the RUF enslaved civilians in the district of Kono, in the east of Sierra Leone, forcing them to work in the diamond pits.

The proceeds obtained through the forced labor of hundreds of people were brought to Monrovia, Liberia, and then sold on the international market.

In September 2021, with the support of Civitas Maxima and Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL – Sierra Leone), one individual who suffered and witnessed several crimes in Kono filed a criminal complaint against the businessman before the Audiencia Nacional in Madrid.

This individual is represented by lawyers Juan Garcés and Hernán Garcés.

At the arraignment hearing on 5 July, the arrestee was remanded in custody without the possibility of release on bail.

This case marks the second time a European citizen has been arrested for acts related to the traffic of blood diamonds from Sierra Leone.

In 2015, Michel Desaedeleer was arrested in Spain following a complaint filed in Belgium in 2011. Michel Desaedeleer died in detention in 2016 before he could be tried in Brussels.