25/02/21 [Liberia] Day 9: The Hearing of Witnesses 4, 5, and 6

The ninth day of public hearings resumed on 25 February 2021 in Monrovia, Liberia.

WITNESS 4 is Heard 

The Prosecution questions Witness 4 

Witness 4 stated that during the crisis, they usually went out to look for food and sell goods. They had gone to Waterside, where a biscuit store was being looted. There were many there, her sister [Victim 1], [Person F], and [Person C], they were all trying to get food for their families. After the store was broken into, a group of soldiers came and the Witness stated that their commander said he was “Angel Gabriel, I can take people to God” and he threatened to kill everybody. They took them to their offices, by the bridge, where soldiers started to beat them. Witness 4 stated that she still has bruises all over her, and that if she took her clothes off, the Court would be able to see them. 

The Witness recounted how her sister, [Victim 1], was being pulled by Angel Gabriel in a room to be raped. When she resisted, he said to his men: “you take the motherfucker from the line and do her work”. When the soldiers started firing at them, another group from across the bridge started shooting, and people started to run, scattering, not knowing where to go. 

Going back to her previous statement, the Witness specified that she was not in the store, and that shortly after the soldiers arrived: that is when she saw the commander for the first time. Even though people called him Gabriel Massaquoi, he introduced himself as Angel Massaquoi, the angel that could take people to God. The Witness chronicled that there was no shooting going on before the soldiers arrived. She was captured by the store, and that everyone there was captured as well – it was too many for her to remember the exact number, she could only remember the people she had initially gone there with. 

The Witness continued by saying that she was taken to the soldiers’ base, which was across the bridge, in a small building. She was carried in, and that is where they were beaten by the soldiers. Witness 4 explained that the commander wanted to take her sister, [Victim 1], to a certain room. When she resisted, he told his soldiers to take her and kill her – the Witness heard him giving the command herself. The Witness also added that she herself was raped. 

Witness 4 explained that she saw her sister being taken outside, and that is when another group of soldiers came shooting on the bridge. The Witness couldn’t really tell if it was a different fighting group, she was too scared. She did not look back after the killing, she was too afraid and she was crying. The Witness was not on the scene when her sister got killed, but she heard a gunshot. She added that some friends were on the scene, and told her that her sister [Victim 1] had been killed. She never saw her sister again after that. 

The Prosecution wanted to know who witnessed her sister being killed, to which the Witness replied it was [Person C], but others also told her about it. 

Witness 4 said she saw the commander carrying a gun, but she didn’t know what kind. She repeated that it was her first time seeing him, and that he had a Sierra Leonean accent, as he did not sound like a Liberian. She said she couldn’t really tell what year this happened, it could have been between 1991 and 2001. 

The Witness described that there were many soldiers in Monrovia at that time, especially in the city center. She said the soldiers were from many different groups: government forces, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), and others. The Witness couldn’t tell which group had captured her. 

When asked how she had gotten in contact with the Finnish Police, the Witness replied that [Employee 1] had called her one day, as [Person C] gave him her number, and asked her if she knew anything of what happened in Waterside. When she replied affirmatively, he told her that white people were there, and wanted to talk to her about it. She did not speak about the incident to [Employee 1], nor has she ever got into details about her sister’s death to anyone. 

The Defense questions Witness 4 

Witness 4 stated that she couldn’t remember the exact year of the incident, as war had been going on in Monrovia. Even in 1990, Doe and Taylor, government and Rebel forces, were fighting. She specified that the rebels were then called freedom fighters. The Witness explained that in 1990 they also had World War 1 (WW1), World War 2 (WW2), and World War 3 (WW3) – when asked by the Defense, the Witness said that she thought WW3 was in 1990, but she was unsure as she was getting older. 

The situation was bad at the time the biscuit store was looted, but they still went out looking for food because they didn’t want to die of hunger. Despite the fact that there had been shooting on the other side of the bridge, there had been none on Waterside, and she had reached the bridge from Johanssen. The Witness stated that there was no food because of the war, there was no free movement: Monrovia was not under siege, but fighting was raging in the center. 

The Witness said she was not aware of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). She said she heard plenty of “funny names” used by the soldiers when she was around the bridge, like “Kill The Dog” and “Town Devil”. The Defense asked her if the only real name she heard was Massaquoi, and the Witness stated that he had called himself “Angel Gabriel”, and that he could take people to God. According to the Defense, on the interview recording, the Witness also talked about people called “Dirty Water” and “Spirit”. The Witness said she hadn’t mentioned them in the hearing because she couldn’t remember all names, given the passage of time. However, she stated that everyone who was there during the crisis knows those names.

Witness 4 stated that Gabriel Massaquoi was a name people were aware about, and he would say his name “when he was about to do wickedness”. She had talked about him to others because her sister was the only person she had in this world. 

The Defense wanted to return on the issue of the soldier’s names, and asked if “Country Devil”, “Kill the Dog”, “Spirit”, and “Dirty Water” were present when her sister had been killed – the Witness confirmed that they were the main people that took them to the office. 

The Witness unsurely stated that she was born in 1976, but then corrected it to 1974. Her age was not verified when she was interviewed, she knew the year because her mother had told her. She initially could not remember how old she was when her sister had been killed, but then the Defense reminded her that in the recording she had stated she was 19 – the Witness confirmed, as she was still living with her sister at the time. She said that her sister, [Victim 1] was a grown woman, and far older than her – but could not remember her age. She was reminded by the Defense that in the recording, she had said that [Victim 1] was only three years older than her. Witness 4 said that she had said that because she had it written on her phone, which she lost. The Witness also had a picture of her sister on that phone. 

Last questions to Witness 4 

Prompted by the Prosecution, the Witness stated that Charles Taylor was President at the time the incident occurred. She had initially said to the Police that the events occurred in 2002, but she recalled they took place in 2001, and corrected herself. She could not remember when Charles Taylor became President and when he left, but she was sure he was President when the incident at Waterside happened. The Defense asked what was Taylor’s role as President, and the Witness responded that he was a rebel leader. 

WITNESS 5 is Heard 

The Prosecution questions Witness 5

Witness 5 testified that between 2001 and 2003 there was no food – and he went to Waterside to find some. When he saw a looted shop, him and his older brother, [Victim 3], went in order to find something to eat. Whilst there, a group of soldiers arrived, and started beating and killing people – the soldiers captured Witness 5 and his brother, and took them to their base, right besides the bridge. Once there, Witness 5 said that someone named Angel Gabriel Massaquoi took his brother and another person, and shot them because he claimed they were rebels. Gabriel Massaquoi then put him in a line with other people and ordered the soldiers who were pointing guns at the group to shoot. Witness 5 saw a lady named [Person C] leaving the line, so he did the same. At that moment, the Witness heard gunshots behind him: people started running and got wounded – he saw [Person C] bleeding from her leg. He managed to escape.

Asked by the Prosecution, Witness 5 specified that the man who gave orders had said “My name is Angel Gabriel Massaquoi, I have sent them to God” and that is how he learned his name. Witness 4 said he didn’t know the name of the other person who was killed with his brother, but he confirmed that Angel Gabriel Massaquoi killed them in front of him. He remembered that this took place in 2001, during the dry season – even if he had initially said to the Finnish Police that the incident took place in 2003. The Witness recalled that that period was what it is locally referred to as WW1, followed after a few months by WW2 and then WW3.

When asked about how the Finnish Police contacted him, he said that last year he received a call from [Employee 1], who told him [Person C] had given him his number. [Employee 1] asked him if he knew anything about the events that took place in Waterside, and he replied that his brother had been killed there. He strongly denied that neither [Employee 1] nor anyone else instructed him on what to say to the Finnish Police. 

The Defense questions Witness 5

On cross-examination, the Witness said that even before [Employee 1] reached out, he had been in contact with [Person C] because they were both sellers in Waterside, but they had not discussed the incident during all of those years. They knew each other because they both sold goods in the same place, but they were not close.

The Witness explained that during WW1, Charles Taylor’s Anti-Terrorism Unit (ATU) were fighting against rebels, in Waterside, Monstserrado County. He stated that he got confused about the dates when talking to the Finnish Police because WW1, WW2, and WW3 all happened the same year, with a few breaks in between. After 2001, he left Monrovia and went to Bomi Hills, and he didn’t hear about war again. 

The Witness stated that he knew about LURD, and that he knew they were close by, even if he didn’t know where they were. He had heard about their base in Monrovia, but he didn’t want to know where it was. Witness 4 explained that during the WWs, government troops and rebels were fighting, but he was not aware of the names of the latter because he only knew about them from Government troops; besides LURD, he did not know any other rebel group name. 

Witness 4 elucidated that people were looting because there was no food, as the conflict made it hard to find something to eat – he stated that the fighting took place in Monrovia. He recalled that Angel Gabriel Massaquoi spoke with a Sierra Leone accent. He ended his testimony by stating that it took until 2005 for “total peace”. 

[Break]

Witness 6 is Heard 

The Prosecution questions Witness 6

The Witness recalled that between 2000 and 2001, he was living in Elwa Junction with his elder brother, [Victim 3]. One day, he went to Waterside to buy goods, and he saw people in a store that sold biscuits – the store was broken into. As he spoke with a boy who had biscuits and milk he was interested in buying, his brother left him to go inside the looted store. Witness 6 stated that a man with an accent from Sierra Leone ordered soldiers to shoot the crowd – many died, including his brother and a girl he knew, [Victim 4]. As he was trying to escape, he was arrested by the soldiers that took him to the “big man”, who ordered to tie him up – the soldiers tabeyed him. Witness 6 mentioned that the soldiers were wearing army fatigue, which was used back then by the ATU. 

Witness 6 stated that other people in line were also tied, and he saw the “big boss” take 4 people from the group, 2 boys and 2 girls. He stated that his name was Gabriel Massaquoi, and “his” Sierra Leoneans called him that: this is when the Witness learned he was from Sierra Leone. Then he talked to the people he had pulled out, and said to them that his name was Angel Gabriel, and this was the name he used for “destruction”. He continued: “As I’m about to send you people, tell God I was the one that sent you”, and he shot the 2 boys and the 2 girls. He then ordered his soldiers to carry their corpses under the bridge, which is where they kept dead bodies. 

As the Witness was still tied, he noticed a man he knew from Nimba County amongst the soldiers, [Soldier 1]. He stated he had never seen him bear weapons before that day. He asked one of his bodyguards to request [Soldier 1] to release him, and he told him to “leave your own with God, as you are finished”. 

Witness 6 said that he started crying – the person he knew was speaking to another soldier, but then saw him. [Soldier 1] said he was surprised to see him, and asked the Witness what he was doing there. Then Gabriel Massaquoi came and said that the group Witness 6 was with were spies, and that they were going to kill them. Witness 6 begged [Soldier 1] to plead on his behalf, so he went and talked to Gabriel Massaquoi. The Witness stated that [Soldier 1] was like an aide de camp of the “big boss”. He was released, and [Soldier 1] escorted him and gave him bread to eat: this is how he escaped. 

The Prosecution revisits some details of the testimony

The Witness specified that the girl he knew, [Victim 4] was already there when he met her – he also knew two other people, [Person D] and [Person E] – he used to sell with them. Witness 6 confirmed that Gabriel Massaquoi gave the order to shoot on the crowd, he saw and heard him himself. 

When they arrested the Witness, they brought him around the bridge – there were many people there. Witness 6 said that he did not know the 2 boys and the 2 girls that were taken out of the line, nor did he know the reason why they were chosen. When asked further, Witness 5 said that Gabriel Massaquoi didn’t give any explanations, but in any case he was not listening properly because he was “praying to God to get me out of there”.

Witness 6 said he saw with his own eyes those people being taken out of the line, and that Gabriel Massaquoi gave the order to kill them, as he was controlling the whole group. The Witness did not know what kind of weapon he used to kill people, as he wasn’t a soldier and didn’t know enough about weapons. He stressed that Gabriel Massaquoi’s accent didn’t resemble a Liberian one.

When asked about what faction did Gabriel Massaquoi belong to, Witness 6 responded that among his men there were ATU soldiers. The Witness stated that there were also child soldiers, and that these child soldiers were present at the shooting in the store, mixed up with the others. Whilst he knew LURD and RUF, he didn’t know much about the groups. 

The Witness admitted to being confused about the dates – he had said 2000 because that is when the ATU was around, but what occurred to him happened in 2001.

He was interviewed by the Finnish Police the year prior, as he was in [Place 3]. However, he was contacted the first time in [Place 1], where he lived. People were discussing the Waterside incident, and he joined the conversation, stating: “I myself was at Waterside, it’s just God that saved me”. It was then that a man, [Employee 1], approached him, and told him that what had happened at Waterside was no small incident, and that security people from Finland would be interested in talking to him about it. The Witness stated that the incident had happened so long ago, and that he had lost his elder brother who was supporting his education – it was frustrating for him to think about that if his brother hadn’t died back then, the Witness probably would have had multiple degrees by now: he did not like to talk about the Waterside incident. 

The Witness didn’t have a phone, so he gave [Employee 1] the number of his uncle’s daughter and said that “since you have spoken to me in this manner when the people come I would like to talk to them”. One day, he was called and told that the Finnish Police was in Liberia. He went to Monrovia and met with a man who was from the Finnish Police, and an interpreter. The Witness specified that he didn’t talk to anyone else, including organizations, about the incident; he also added that: “no one can influence me or stop me from talking”. 

The Defense questions Witness 6 

The Witness stated that he had talked to [Employee 1] at the end of 2019, when the rainy season was coming to an end. He explained he had met him in [Place 1], where there were often political conversations. The Witness had briefly explained to [Employee 1] about the Waterside incident, but he didn’t go into details. 

Witness 6 explained that during WW1, in 2001, the elected government was fighting against the LURD rebel group: the fighting took place all over the country. However, he did not know if LURD was in Monrovia or not. 

When the police had interviewed him, the Witness had declared that Gabriel Massaquoi was part of the RUF. During the testimony, Witness 6 said he didn’t know what faction Gabriel Massaquoi belonged to, but that he was assigned to the ATU forces. 

The Court played a recording of the Witness’s interview with the Finnish Police. In the recording, the Witness said that WW1 was during 2001, and at the time LURD forces were in Monrovia. In 2001, and 2002, fighting was also intense in Lofa, as his aunt who lived there called him and told him about it. 

Asked by the Defense, the Witness reiterated what he had said on the recording, and specified that in 2001 LURD forces were in Monrovia, but they were there for reconnaissance – things escalated in 2002. The Defense inquired if at Waterside there were any fights or battles going on between government forces and LURD. The Witness responded that at Waterside there was no fighting, it was just civilians looking for food. He further explained that in 2001, LURD had entered Monrovia, but that it was in Lofa that massacres were taking place. 

The Witness, when asked by the Defense, specified that when he was talking about his brother being killed, he referred to [Victim 3]. 

Even if he said he didn’t know about guns, the Witness explained that in the interview he had stated that AK-47 were used because [Person D] and [Person E], who also had escaped, had told him. 

Prosecution questions the Witness again 

The Witness explained that he has many siblings, and prompted by the Prosecution, he stated that with him that day at Waterside, was also another brother of his [Victim 5]. Witness 6 explained that after [Victim 5] entered the store, he did not hear from him again – the Witness stated that it was not a small number of people that got killed that day. 

The Prosecution asked the Witness if he also saw [Victim 5] being killed. The Witness said that he saw both [Victim 5] and [Victim 3] entering the store, and that Gabriel Massaquoi’s men killed them. 

The Defense questions the Witness again 

The Witness said that he did not know if there were many Sierra Leoneans on that bridge, as he was praying for his life, and he was only aware of Gabriel Massaquoi being there, as he spoke with an accent from Sierra Leone. Witness 5 added that he had never been to Sierra Leone, but he had dealt with many Sierra Leoneans, so he could recognize the accent. 

As the Defense stated that they were surprised to hear that the Witness lost two of his brothers that day, Witness 6 stated that he had told the Finnish Police about both of them, but that the recording was not on, so it wasn’t on tape. 

The hearing concluded and will resume in Monrovia on Monday, 1 March 2021, at 9:00.

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