Trial of former RUF commander set to begin before Finnish court

The trial of Sierra Leonean national and Tampere resident, Gibril Massaquoi, will begin on 1st February 2021 before the Pirkanmaa District Court in Finland, and is expected to last for several months. This follows today’s indictment of Massaquoi by the Office of the Prosecutor on charges of aggravated war crimes, aggravated crimes against humanity and murders – which he allegedly committed not in his home country, Sierra Leone, but in neighbouring Liberia.

Massaquoi’s indictment comes shortly after the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) concluded its pre-trial investigation of crimes allegedly committed by Massaquoi between 1999 and 2003.

During the course of the trial, a significant number of victims and witnesses of Massaquoi’s alleged crimes, as well as defense witnesses, are expected to testify.

Concurrent to Massaquoi’s trial – for three weeks from 15th February – the trial of Alieu Kosiah will resume in Bellinzona, Switzerland, after it commenced in December 2020. Liberian alleged victims, as well as witnesses, are expected to testify in Switzerland.

With these two trials, the efforts to obtain justice for the hundreds of thousands of forgotten victims of the Liberian civil wars continue to gain strength in front of national courts all over the world, after the trials and convictions of Jungle Jabbah in 2017 and Thomas Woewiyu in 2018, both in Philadelphia, U.S.

Massaquoi has been under formal investigation by the NBI since autumn 2018, after Civitas Maxima and its sister organization in Monrovia, the GJRP, submitted information regarding his alleged involvement in mass atrocities in Liberia to the Finnish authorities. Massaquoi has been in pre-trial detention since his arrest in Tampere, Finland, on 10 March 2020. This case has involved extensive investigations in Liberia and Sierra Leone since early 2019, with the cooperation and support of the Liberian and Sierra Leonean authorities.

Civitas Maxima and the GJRP applaud the Liberian and Sierra Leonean authorities’ support of this case, and the Finnish authorities for their extensive but timely investigation on the ground.

Massaquoi held leading positions within the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) during the Sierra Leonian Civil War (1991-2002) – as Lieutenant-Colonel and spokesman of the rebel group. The civil war in Sierra Leone was closely connected to the two civil wars in Liberia, as Charles Taylor (former President of Liberia and founder of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group) supported and worked with the RUF throughout the conflicts. Taylor was convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in 2012 for aiding, abetting, and planning the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone by the RUF. Massaquoi was not prosecuted before the SCSL due to his collaboration as an insider witness.

Despite the Final Report of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued in June 2009 – which recommended criminal prosecutions and the establishment of a Specialized Tribunal for war crimes committed in Liberia – nobody has ever been prosecuted or tried in Liberia for crimes committed during the wars. The two back-to-back conflicts (1989-1997 & 1999-2003) left more than 250,000 dead and hundreds of thousands of refugees.

We will publish on our website and social media channels daily monitoring of the trial, which will be undertaken in collaboration with a team of partners, including local monitors where the hearings will be conducted, and remote monitors in Europe and the U.S. This will allow people across the world to follow the trial beyond the courtroom walls.

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