24/02/21 [Liberia] Day 8: The Hearing of Witness 2 and 3
The eighth day of public hearings resumed on 24 February 2021 in Monrovia, Liberia.
The Prosecution questions Witness 2 about events near the bridge and his experience with “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi”
The day began with the Prosecution questioning Witness 2 regarding his experience in Liberia. The Prosecution asked the Witness whether he remembered well what had happened, and if he saw many people with guns in Monrovia. Witness 2 said that he did, and that he remembered them coming from Logan Town. When asked his age at the time, Witness 2 said that he was born in 1952 and would have been around 47 years old.
The Prosecution then focused on the day in question. Witness 2 explained that he was getting food with his friend and brother at a shop in Waterside near a roundabout. The Witness clarified that by “friend and brother” he meant two separate people. The Prosecution recalled that the Witness had previously stated that he heard gunshots when he was in the shop, and asked if he knew who was shooting. The Witness responded that he only saw one man firing shots with a pistol. He called this man “Gabriel Massaquoi.” The Witness explained that this person had many other fighters with him – though he did not have an exact count – and that a few of them carried guns, and wore camouflage uniforms.
The Prosecution then asked how the Witness knew the name of the man who was shooting outside the shop. Witness 2 replied that the man had identified himself by name after he finished shooting, saying, “I am Gabriel Massaquoi”. The Prosecution asked the Witness to confirm that the man specifically used the name “Gabriel Massaquoi,” and the Witness responded affirmatively.
The Prosecution asked if anyone was shot when the Witness heard the gunshots and exited the shop. The Witness said “no” and further stated that he did not see any wounded individuals at that time. The Prosecution referred to the Witness’s earlier statement that individuals were brought to a “control building,” and asked where this building was located. The Witness said that the building was near the Old Bridge, and that it was where a man had been killed. He said that he and his friends were taken to the same place near the bridge, along with at least thirty other people. The Witness mentioned that he could see many dead bodies under the bridge.
The Prosecution asked Witness 2 to elaborate on his earlier statement regarding “lines and shooting.” The Witness explained that when they went outside, everyone was told to line up single file. The Prosecution then asked the Witness for more details regarding what happened under the bridge and whether there was any gunfire. The Witness stated that the firing happened at two checkpoints. When asked whether the place under the bridge was a checkpoint or a base, the Witness responded that it was a base. The Prosecution then asked whether the Witness had been taken to the base with his friend and his brother. Here, the Witness stated that his friend and brother had been killed earlier when they were taken from the line and carried under the bridge. Witness 2 confirmed that he had seen them being killed. The Prosecution asked who had done the shooting. The Witness responded that it was Gabriel Massaquoi; he remembered it was a pistol.
The Prosecution asked whether the Witness’ brother and friend both died immediately after being shot. Witness 2 replied that they died at that time but that they were alive when they were taken from the line and brought under the bridge. The Witness mentioned that everyone who was not taken from the line found a way to escape. At the request of the Prosecution, the Witness confirmed again that his brother and friend were alive when they were carried under the bridge, and that they were killed under the bridge. The Witness explained that people were just being picked out of the line at random to be taken under the bridge, and that he himself was not taken there. The Prosecution again asked the Witness whether he personally witnessed Gabriel Massaquoi shooting these people. The Witness said he saw this with his own eyes.
The Prosecution then asked for the names of the Witness’s friend and brother, and Witness 2 provided them. The Witness also explained that he knew some other people who had also been in the line and that some of them were his friends. The Prosecution asked whether the Witness was present when any other individuals were killed. The Witness replied that they did not kill any other people while he was there.
The Prosecution resumed its questioning about Gabriel Massaquoi, asking whether the Witness knew the name of Mr. Massaquoi’s group. Witness 2 responded that there were people behind Mr. Massaquoi wearing a lot of camouflage. The Prosecution repeated the question, and the Witness responded that it was the first time he saw Mr. Massaquoi armed. The remainder of his answer was unclear.
The Prosecution returned to the subject of the shooting at the shop, asking who else was in the shop. The Witness said that he went there with his friends to look for food, since they did not have any. He indicated that there were more than twenty people in the shop, including himself and his brother.
The Prosecution then asked whether, in the Witness’s mind, Gabriel Massaquoi was leading the group. Witness 2 confirmed that Gabriel Massaquoi was the Commander. The Prosecution asked whether the Witness saw several commanders, or only one. To this, the Witness clarified that he only saw one: it was Gabriel Massaquoi, who came in front of him and killed. The Prosecution asked if the Witness was referring to a specific incident. The Witness said that Gabriel Massaquoi took people from the line, carried them under the bridge, and killed them with a pistol.
The Prosecution then reminded Witness 2 that they were discussing the year 2000 and asked whether the Witness remembered what season or time of year these events took place. The Witness responded that it was the beginning of the year.
The Prosecution then stated that the Witness had talked about the incidents at the shop and the bridge before and asked if the Finnish police had asked him about them, but Witness 2 said they hadn’t. When asked again whether the Witness had previously been questioned about these incidents, the Witness responded that friends who had been in the line with him that day had told him that there were white people who wanted to know what had happened. However, the Witness said he had not told them about it, he didn’t talk to the Finnish Police, and it was his first time seeing a white man.
The Prosecution then asked if Witness 2 knew a person named [Person A]. The Witness confirmed that he knew him, calling him his brother. However, the Witness noted that he died last year from an illness. The Prosecution then asked if the Witness knew [Person B]. The Witness confirmed that yes, he knew him, and this was also his brother. He had been sick and died, but the Witness did not recall exactly when.
The Prosecution turned back to the Witness’s recent meeting with the white men, asking him what they had discussed. Witness 2 responded that he told them that he was happy, because they came here to get justice. The Prosecution asked if he talked to the white men about the incidents at the bridge, to which the Witness replied, “no.” When asked what he did talk about with them, the Witness responded that this hearing was his first time seeing white men. The Prosecution asked him whether he was talking about today; the Witness clarified that he meant yesterday. Following this, the Prosecution asked him whether he remembered meeting white people over a year ago. Witness 2 responded that he only met two gentlemen from Finland and this happened yesterday.
The Defense questions Witness 2 about Gabriel Massaquoi and Mr. Varney
The Defense then began its questioning of Witness 2. When asked how he became involved with the case, the Witness replied that a lady who had been on the line had told him that white people from Finland came to help and ask about the bad people. When asked, the Witness explained that the “bad people” were the ones who had taken people from the line and killed them. He mentioned that he was happy to hear that white people came to render justice. The Defense pressed the Witness to explain what he had discussed with the lady. The Witness confirmed that they did talk about what had happened and also specific names of people, including his friend and his brother.
The Defense asked whether they discussed Gabriel Massaquoi. Witness 2 responded that since the incident, he had not seen him. To clarify, the Defense asked again whether they talked about Gabriel Massaquoi or whether the lady asked him about Gabriel Massaquoi. The Witness responded that she did not ask him, but that he explained it to her.
The Defense then switched gears, asking about Mr. Gabriel Varney. The Witness responded that he was one of the workers on the field, also confirming that Gabriel Varney had been on the bridge. The Defense asked what Varney had been doing there, to which the Witness responded that he was the commander on the line, only there to tell people what to do. When asked how he knew Mr. Varney’s name, the Witness simply stated that on the field, people were calling him “Varney.”
To close, the Defense then asked if, at the end of 2019, Witness 2 had talked with two white men from Finland. The Witness responded by stating that “no,” he did not.
The Prosecution continues questions Witness 2 about Mr. Varney and Gabriel Massaquoi
The Prosecution began by asking Witness 2 about what exactly Gabriel Varney did. The Witness responded that Varney was on the field. He added that sometimes, when people were killed, he told people to stand in line. When asked whether the Witness saw Varney shooting anyone, the Witness said that the first person he saw shooting was Gabriel Massaquoi. The Prosecution attempted to clarify whether Gabriel Varney and Gabriel Massaquoi were the same person, to which the Witness explained that no, they were two different people. The Prosecution then asked who Varney had killed. The Witness responded that Varney had not killed anybody, he was just there to arrange the bodies under the bridge.
The Prosecution asked if the Witness could share any details about Gabriel Massaquoi. The Witness responded that when he came from the store, he saw him with a pistol. When he shot, he said, “I am Gabriel Massaquoi, if you play with me, you will die right now.” The Witness highlighted again that this is how he knew his name. When asked what language Gabriel Massaquoi spoke, the Witness said he spoke Liberian English.
The Defense questions Witness 2 about armed groups in Monrovia
The Defense returned, asking Witness 2 why people were looting the store. The Witness simply responded that there was no food.
The Defense then began a line of questions about various armed groups. First, when asked whether he knew who or what LURD is, the Witness stated that at that time, there were many forces. There was “RU” (LURD), there was ULIMO-K, ULIMO-J, and others. The Defense asked whether these groups included ECOMOG as well. The Witness confirmed, also noting that ECOMOG was in Monrovia.
When asked if he remembered when LURD came to Monrovia, the Witness responded that he had heard about them and that they came to Monrovia. The Defense then asked if the incident happened at the same time LURD came to Monrovia, or before. The Witness replied that it was long before then. He further noted the war lasted so long that he cannot remember exactly how much time had passed. The Defense asked whether he could remember ECOMIL, to which the Witness responded that he did not; he only knew ECOMOG.
The morning session ended at 10:52.
The afternoon session started at 13:10.
The Prosecution and the Defense conclude questioning of Witness 2
The Prosecution continued questioning the Witnesses about their experiences during the Liberian wars and their encounters with the Accused, Mr. Gibril Massaquoi.
The Prosecution began by recalling that during the morning session they had asked Witness 2 whether they had previously discussed anything with the Finnish police, which the Witness denied. The Prosecution then proceeded to show the Witness a video and ask questions about it.
[Note: The audio from the video was difficult to hear through the video link used to observe the trial.]
The Prosecution recalled that Witness 2 mentioned Person A and Person B by name in the recording and asked why he mentioned them. The Witness responded that both were his brothers who were shot by Mr. Gibril Massaquoi. However, Witness 2 noted that Person A later died of illness and not the gunshot. The Prosecution followed up by asking whether Witness 2 saw dead bodies outside the store where Person A and Person B were shot, which Witness 2 denied.
The Defense continued by asking what year this event took place. According to Witness 2, the events took place in 2000, instead of 2003, which he had previously stated in the pre-trial investigation. The Defense was curious to know why Witness 2 decided to correct the year now during this hearing. To this, the Witness explained that so much time has passed and he is not very educated, so it is difficult to remember years.
The Defense then asked whether Witness 2 had discussed this matter with anyone after he had mentioned the year 2003 to the Finnish police during the pre-trial investigation. Witness 2 explained that he had discussed the matter with his friends which was why he came to the conclusion that the events took place in 2000 instead of 2003. He offered to bring the names of these friends if needed.
The Defense continued the line of questioning by addressing other inconsistencies in Witness 2’s statements. Specifically, the Defense asked why Witness 2 previously stated that there were dead bodies in front of the shop in the recording of the pre-trial investigation when he testified today that there were no dead bodies in front of the shop. Witness 2 denied that he ever said that there were dead bodies in front of the shop.
At this point, a discussion ensued regarding the area where the described events had taken place and where the LURD forces were, farther from the center of Monrovia. The Defense again asked about discrepancies between today’s testimony and what was heard on the video, to which Witness 2 agreed that there are differences because many things have “skipped” his mind over time.
At this point, the trial observers lost access to the video feed for some moments. When the connection was re-set, the Judge was explaining to Witness 3 that the Prosecution had brought him as a Witness and that he should answer questions as best he can.
The Prosecution questions Witness 3, who lost his wife by the bridge
The Prosecutor began asking Witness 3 whether he recalled the day when his wife went out to get food from the Waterside Market. Witness 3, similar to Witness 2, first explained that during the preliminary investigation, he had placed the event in the year 2003, but later corrected it to the year 2000 (WW1). He then noted that at the time, he had been living in West Point. On the day in question, his wife had heard that the stores in Waterside were open so she had gone down there to look for food. Looking ahead, Witness 3 explained that fighters had grabbed his wife and carried her back down the bridge to their commander “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi.”
Backing up in time, the Witness described how first, after his wife failed to return home, he went out to search for her. When he got there, they questioned him, arrested him, and put him in ‘line’. According to the Witness, there were two lines; one in the front and one in the back – he was put in the former, with his wife. However, the Witness saw two other people walk from the front of the line to the end, which influenced him to leave the line he was in and go to the end of the other line. The Witness then described how much he feared when he saw “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi” kill two boys. Afterward, the same person gave an order to shoot the people on the first line. Following the incident, Liberian soldiers arrived at the bridge and began shooting in the air while asking, “Why are you killing our people?” This led to confusion on all sides, including for “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi” and his bodyguards. In the resulting chaos, Witness 3 was able to run away.
Witness 3 mentioned that, before the shooting, he had recognized a lady whom Angel Gabriel Massaquoi’s soldiers had slashed on the foot with a bayonet. This was because she had refused to follow them.
The Witness then continued with details about the shooting. He again noted that because the shooting created such chaos, he was able to escape. Witness 3 noted that it was due to the grace of God that he is alive and able to testify today.
He also noted that he has not seen Angel Gabriel Massaquoi since 2000. He was surprised and moved at being called to testify, because Angel Gabriel Massaquoi had killed his wife, and he had to take care of his children alone.
The Prosecutor then asked Witness 3 how he knew the name “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi.” The Witness explained that this person had stood before them and introduced himself that way, saying, “I am Angel Gabriel Massaquoi, go tell God I am the one who sent you.”
The Prosecutor then proceeded to ask if Witness 3 had seen the murder of the two boys with his own eyes. Witness 3 confirmed that yes, he was there when the two boys were killed. He added that later, Angel Gabriel Massaquoi issued orders to kill other people, including Witness 3’s wife. The Witness then described how “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi” had called the boys out and fired at each of them with his pistol. This had made Witness 3 afraid. When asked, the Witness confirmed that the boys were civilians and not soldiers.
He also stated that Angel Gabriel Massaquoi ordered his bodyguards to kill the other people using their “long” guns.
Switching gears, the Prosecutor then asked about how Angel Gabriel Massaquoi spoke. The Witness answered that it was with a Sierra Leonean accent.
When asked how many Liberian soldiers had arrived, Witness 3 said that due to the shooting, he could not stay there to count. Nor could he count the number of Liberians who asked, “Why are you killing our Liberian soldiers?”
The Prosecutor then focused on an apparent error in the Witness’ recollection of the year these events took place. The Witness said that even though he previously mentioned the year 2003, the incident really took place in 2000. The Witness also stated that with the exception of the Finnish police, he had not spoken about the year in question with anyone else.
The Prosecution then asked the Witness how he came into contact with the Finnish police. The Witness explained that he had talked to women in Waterside who were telling others about what happened to them during the war. According to the Witness, there was a person, [Employee 2] who heard them, and said that he knew people who would want to listen to their stories. [Employee 2] then took their contact information and provided the information to the Finnish Police. According to the Witness, the first person [Employee 2] contacted regarding the matter was [Person C].
The Prosecution closed this examination by asking Witness 3 if anyone at all had told him what he should or should not talk about. Witness 3 confirmed that this had not happened; this was his own story.
The Defense questioned Witness 3 about timeframes, armed groups, and prior conversations about the events in question
The Defense picked up on this thread, asking Witness 3 to confirm that he had not talked to anyone except the women and the judge present, which the Witness confirmed. The Defense asked about [Employee 2]: how long did it take after [Employee 2] wrote down his contact information before he was contacted. The Witness answered that he was contacted approximately five days later.
The Defense proceeded to challenge Witness 3’s ability to recall the correct year, pointing out that all three witnesses had previously said these events took place in 2003 but were now saying it was 2000. Witness 3 acknowledged that he had made a mistake with the year and had tried to contact the interviewers to correct this, but he was unsuccessful. He simply said the mistake was because his head had been disturbed and much time had passed.
The Defense then asked the Witness whether he could describe the situation in Monrovia at the time of the incident. Witness 3 noted that there was fighting in Monrovia, with both goverment forces on one side and rebel forces on the other. He noted that fighting in the city would start and stop, with different periods called WWI, WW2, and WW3. Witness 3 explained that during this time, one could only travel to areas controlled by the government.
When asked to describe the fighting that took place in 2000, the Witness responded that they were in West Point at the time, lying down in fear. He could not describe it further. The Defense noted that the Witness stated in his pre-trial interview that the battle was rough. The Witness corrected Defense counsel, saying that he had not called it “war” – it was just Liberian fighters who were firing and yelling at “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi,” asking, “Why are you killing our Liberians?”. Witness 3 noted that they were all fighting for President Charles Taylor.
The Defense then returned to [Employee 2] and [Person C]. The Witness stated that [Civilian C] works in business while [Employee 2] seems to be an “agent” of the Finnish actors, though he was not entirely sure where he works. When asked if he had ever discussed the incidents in [Employee 2]’s presence, Witness 3 clarified that [Employee 2] only collected his information. When the Defense asked why, after not speaking about these events for 19 years, Witness 3 suddenly discussed them with [Employee 2]. The Witness responded by saying that he did not discuss anything with [Employee 2] directly. Instead, the woman said [Employee 2] may have heard something when he was passing by as she sold fish.
The Defense then returned to the issue of armed groups active in the area at the time. Counsel noted that, though Witness 3 seemed to be saying ULIMO forces were there fighting at the time, other information indicated that ULIMO had not been there since 1996. The Witness replied that he simply accepted what the fighters had told him. When asked if he had seen all the warring factions, Witness 3 said he had only seen Charles Taylor’s group – they had been there the day he lost his wife. He clarified that he had not seen ULIMO fighters himself, and had only heard from Charles Taylor’s men that they were fighting ULIMO forces.
Defense counsel returned briefly to the events concerning Witness 3’s wife. When prompted for more detail, Witness 3 explained that the shop had “burst open” so people were looting it in search of food; he had waited for his wife at home for about 45 minutes before he went out to look for her.
The hearing was scheduled to resume on 26 February 2021.