Michel Desaedeleer Dies in Custody in Belgium

Michel Desaedeleer, businessman of dual citizenship (Belgian and American) died yesterday in prison in Belgium. He was arrested in August 2015 based on allegations that he had committed the war crimes of inhuman and degrading treatment and pillage as well as the crime against humanity of enslavement through his participation in the “blood diamond” trade in Sierra Leone. Desaedeleer allegedly engaged in trade with former Liberian President Charles Taylor and the rebel group RUF (Revolutionary United Front) in Sierra Leone.

His trial was scheduled to take place in the near future in Brussels and it would have been the first trial in history to deal with international crimes allegedly committed in furtherance of natural resource trade. Luc Walleyn, lawyer in Brussels, Civitas Maxima in Geneva and the Center for Accountability and the Rule of Law (CARL) in Freetown have worked for years with Sierra Leonean victims towards bringing Michel Desaedeleer to Justice. The news of his death, only shortly before his trial was scheduled to start, represents the end of the criminal case brought against him.

Sadly, the victims of slavery in the diamond mines in Sierra Leone’s Kono district, who were enslaved for months partially for the purpose of enriching Western businessmen, will never fully achieve justice. Nevertheless, the arrest of Michel Desaedeleer, his imprisonment and the fact that his trial was scheduled to commence in a few months represent a victory for the victims who courageously filed a complaint against him and have never ceased in their fight for justice.

The professionalism of the Belgian authorities, who have shown great diligence throughout the investigation of this case, should be noted, as should the collaboration of the Sierra Leonean government, which allowed the Belgian authorities to conduct investigations on its territory.

Civitas Maxima and CARL will continue their tireless, fierce and independent fight for justice in the name of forgotten victims of international crimes.

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