Former RUF commander arrested in Finland over war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Liberia
On Tuesday, March 10, Gibril Massaquoi, a Sierra Leonean national, was arrested in Tampere, Finland, by the Finnish police who suspect that he committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Liberia between 1999 and 2003. The crimes he allegedly committed include homicide, sexual violence, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
Gibril Massaquoi was in the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) inner circle during the Sierra Leonean Civil War – a Lieutenant-Colonel and spokesman of the rebel group – as well as an assistant to the group’s founder, Foday Sankoh.
In 2005, Massaquoi testified in open session before the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in the case against members of Sierra Leone’s former Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) – a rebel group that allied itself with the RUF rebels in the late 1990s.
As part of their regular investigation and documentation efforts, Civitas Maxima and its Liberian sister organization, the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), found evidence that Massaquoi had allegedly committed, overseen, and ordered international crimes in Liberia during the Second Civil War.
Civitas Maxima and the GJRP submitted information regarding Massaquoi’s alleged involvement in mass atrocities in Liberia to the authorities in Finland, where he resides. Information about Massaquoi’s presence in Finland appeared online as early as 2010.
The Liberian authorities’ support of this case should be applauded, as they collaborated with the Finnish authorities during the investigation.
Civitas Maxima and the GJRP also congratulate the Finnish authorities on their diligence and commitment to this investigation.
Fayah Williams, Deputy Director of the GJRP said: “The latest news regarding the arrest of Mr Gibril Massaquoi in Finland is a huge step towards addressing the issue of accountability for past crimes committed during the two bloody civil wars in Liberia. It brings hope to all those who were victimized as a result of the civil wars. This arrest also indicates that justice does not discriminate based on nationality.”
This is the 7th arrest of an alleged war criminal by authorities in 6 different countries on 2 continents that was prompted by information collected by Civitas Maxima and the GJRP – whose work has also contributed to two convictions of Liberian war criminals in the U.S. Nobody has ever been tried for war-related crimes on Liberian soil. The historic trial of Alieu Kosiah, a former commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) rebel group, is scheduled to commence on April 14 and conclude on April 30 2020 in Bellinzona, Switzerland. Two of Civitas Maxima’s lawyers directly represent 4 plaintiffs in the case. It will be the first trial for war crimes in front of the Swiss Federal Criminal Court.