02/03/21 [Liberia] Day 10: The Hearing of Witnesses 7, 8, and 9

The tenth day of public hearings resumed on 2 March 2021 in Monrovia, Liberia.

Witness 7 is heard

The Prosecution questions Witness 7

Witness 7 recalled an incident in which soldiers shot several people in front of a store. According to Witness 7, during that morning in early 2001 all the stores in Waterside were closed except for one which was being looted. Later in her testimony, when asked how she remembered that the incident took place in early 2001, she replied that she remembers it  because that year she was selling products in Waterside.

Witness 7 noted that she lined up together with [FNM-052] to buy food from the people who were looting the store. It was then that Witness 7 saw armed men shooting at people and they both ran away. Witness 7 stated that [FNM-052] ran in a different direction, while she escaped to the Waterside Bridge, where she met her friend [FNM-050]. Once there, Witness 7 encountered a group of six soldiers who started beating and dragging her and her friend, [FNM-050], to a checkpoint. The soldiers had tied them “tabay”, and as Witness 7 and her friend [FNM-050] were carried off, they were forced to look directly at the sun. Witness 7 recounted how one of the soldiers was called “Angel Gabriel” by another soldier. Later in her testimony, she explained that the checkpoint was located at the Old Bridge.

The man called “Angel Gabriel” had told Witness 7 and her friend that they were enemies there to spy on Angel Gabriel and his group. Witness 7 recounted that Angel Gabriel ordered her and her friend to get in a line with other people. People from the line were taken under the bridge to be killed. Witness 7 recalled that she and her friend were waiting under the bridge for some time before a car drove up with a man wearing a Liberian Army uniform. The man asked why the people were in the line and told Angel Gabriel that they were not enemies but were definitely civilians. Witness 7 recalled that her aunt’s friend, [FNM-055], was also in the car. [FNM-055] took Witness 7 and her friend to Elwa Junction. Witness 7 stated that she still has a scar on her body from the incident. Later in her testimony, Witness 7 showed the Court these marks and explained that they were caused by being dragged over glass bottles.

Witness 7 said that she did not recognize whether the soldiers in front of the store were part of any specific group or faction. Witness 7 clarified that the people who the soldiers shooting at at were civilians and that many people died in front of the store. Witness 7 could not confirm how many, as there were too many victims.

The Prosecution asked how Witness 7 knew the name of the man who called her an enemy. The Witness replied that she heard the other men call him “Angel Gabriel.” Witness 7 said that she heard this person giving orders to the other men, including the order to kill people in the line. Witness 7 said that he held a gun when he gave the order, although she did not see him fire it. She did see the other man carry out his order. She could not remember how many died.

The Prosecution asked if the man who gave the order to kill was a Liberian man. Witness 7 replied that “he was not Liberian man,” further clarifying that he spoke in “the Sierra Leonean way of speaking, not the Liberian way.” During the Defense’s questioning later, Witness 7 clarified that Angel Gabriel spoke Temne, a language of Sierra Leone. The Prosecution asked whether Witness 7 had heard of the LURD or the RUF, but she said she had not.

The Prosecution turned to an earlier interview Witness 7 had given about this incident. The Witness said she was contacted for the interview through [Employee 1] and [FNM-050] and that she did not know whether [Employee 1] or [FNM-050] had also been interviewed about the incident. She said she had not spoken about the incident with any other organisation, or anyone other than her parents. 

Finally, before proceeding with the Defense’s line of questioning, Witness 7 said she could not remember whether the events took place during the rainy or dry season.

The Defense questions Witness 7

The Defense began by asking about [Employee 1]. The Witness did not know [Employee 1]’s family name, or what he did for work. She stated that [FNM-050] had given her number to [Employee 1] and that [Employee 1] called her to say that people wanted to talk to her about the incident at Waterside.

The Defense asked about the name the Witness used to refer to her aunt in the interview with the Finnish police. The Witness clarified that  her aunt had two different names: one used by her mother, the other used by the Witness.The Defense then asked Witness 7 about Angel Gabriel. Witness 7 stated that the only name she heard him use was Angel Gabriel, she specifically remembered him saying “I am Angel Gabriel.” She also explained that this man spoke in a Sierra Leonean dialect. When asked whether she recalled her previous statement made during the pretrial interview, Witness 7 stated she had said he spoke like a Sierra Leonean. The Defense noted that during her pretrial interview she had said that Angel Gabriel spoke Temne. Witness 7 recalled saying this and confirmed.

The Witness continued by explaining that when the incident occurred there was no war or fighting in the area, noting that there might have been fighting in other areas of Liberia. The Witness did not recall whether this time period had a name. When asked about “World War ” “World War 2,” and “World War 3,” the Witness confirmed that she has heard those terms. The Witness stated that she only remembered when WW1 took place because she was in Monrovia at the time  but was “out of town’’ during WW2 and WW3. Subsequently, the Witness then clarified that the incident at Waterside took place during WW1.

The Defense returned to the previous statements regarding the shops at Waterside. Witness 7 said that by the time she arrived in Waterside, the shops were closed, but she did not know why. She said that the incidentat Waterside was the only attackshe had witnessed in Monrovia, and she left the city after that.

At this point, one of the Judges asked for more information regarding where and when the Witness lived in Monrovia. The Witness explained that she lived in the interior of the country and moved to an area of Monrovia called Police Academy in 2000 to help her aunt sell in Waterside, and that after the incident she moved back to the interior. 

When asked by the Defense what year she was selling at Waterside, the Witness explained that she started selling in Waterside during 2000 and continued to sell there in 2001. Prior to year 2000, she did not sell in Waterside, because she was in the interior. 

The Defense asked the Witness about the terms “WW1,” “WW2,” and “WW3,” and how she  knew what year the incident in Waterside took place. The Witness explained that she heard people use these terms to describe periods of war after she came back to Monrovia in 2010. The Witness did not recall what day or month the incident took place. However, she recalled she might have mentioned May or April during the pretrial interview with the Finnish police. The Defense said she had mentioned the events took place right after her sister’s birthday on March 3rd. The Witness confirmed that she remembered her sister’s birthday and that this event took place afterwards.

Witness 8 is heard

The Prosecution questions Witness 8

Witness 8 began by testifying about an incident related to a store in Waterside which had been broken into. Witness 8 explained that he lived in Paynesville but would often go to Waterside to purchase goods to sell. On this particular morning, all of the stores were closed except for one which had been broken into. He said that people were bringing goods out of that store to sell outside. However, Witness 8 himself did not go to that store because there were armed men and he felt afraid of them. 

After a while, Witness 8 saw people shooting and began running in the direction of the Liberia Electricity Company. While running, Witness 8 heard [FNM-053], whom he knew from the Waterside Market,  calling out out to him to wait for her, and they proceeded to run together. However, Witness 8 and [FNM-053] did not make it far, as six armed men stopped them and took them to a checkpoint. Witness 8 described other people who had already been taken to the checkpoint, some of whom were tied up with rope. He also heard some men saying that some of the girls were “Angel women,” and soon after the “Angel Man” arrived. When he arrived, the soldiers told him that the people at the checkpoint were enemies they had captured. Witness 8 noted that he was confused by the fact that the soldiers were wearing Liberian Army uniforms but speaking in a different accent. After this, “Angel” began to pick girls from the group, saying: “These are my women for today. Kill the others, and let them go tell God I sent them in front. I, Angel Gabriel, sent you.” Witness 8 stated that this person referred to as “Angel” ordered the soldiers to kill people, and the soldiers did so.

While the Witness was being beaten, a Liberian General arrived and began asking Angel who the prisoners were and why they were being beaten and killed. The General was accompanied by a woman who knew [FNM-053], who was still with Witness 8. Prompted by the woman, [FNM-053] explained that they were simply trying to escape when they were captured and brought to the checkpoint. The lady then saved them and took them to Vai Town, where they were instructed to leave. Witness 8 noted that Vai Town is the first community across the Old Bridge. Witness 8 further explained  that the checkpoint was located near the Old Bridge, by the end nearest Waterside.

Witness 8 stated that he became aware of the name ‘Angel Gabriel’ because the soldiers at the checkpoint were calling the commander by this name. Witness 8 heard Angel Gabriel give a command to the soldiers to kill people: “Go and tell God I, Angel Gabriel, sent them.” Witness 8 stated that the soldiers obeyed this man’s orders to kill people. Witness 8 was unable to estimate how many people were killed, however, citing the trauma that he had experienced. When asked about his comment that Angel Gabriel spoke differently, Witness 8 stated that it was a “British accent, like a Sierra Leonean.” He added that he knows what a Liberian sounds like, he knows what a Sierra Leonean sounds like, and this man did not sound Liberian to him. 

Asked to revisit a few earlier lines of questioning, Witness 8 said he could not remember the name of [FNM-053]’s aunt, nor could he recall the day when this incident took place. He estimated that it took place during the dry season in 2001.

When questioned about how he came into contact with the Finnish people, Witness 8 explained that an acquaintance of his from Waterside, [FNM-054], called him asking if he remembered the incident. After this, [FNM-054] told him that [Employee 1] wanted to talk to him about it, so Witness 8 agreed  to share his phone number with [Employee 1]. After [Employee 1] contacted Witness 8, he met with the Finnish police. Witness 8 noted that [Employee 1] did not talk with him about the events at the checkpoint, but instead directed him to the Finnish investigators. Witness 8 said that he did not talk to any other organization or government about the incident, adding that “the whole country knew about it.” When asked to elaborate, Witness 8 stated that the whole country knew about the incident because it was on the radio, as Waterside is a big market and the killing that occurred there was notable. However, he added that he did not focus on the radio, as he was too disturbed. He stated that “even up to now, when I think about it, the flashback disturbs me.”

The Defense questions Witness 8

Witness 8 stated that he was eighteen years old at the time of the incident, and that he is thirty-nine now. The Witness recalled that he was surprised when he arrived at Waterside that day because some of the stores were closed and people were running around. He added that he did not know why the stores were closed, noting that upon arrival he saw soldiers with weapons—although there was no fighting going on that particular morning. 

Interjecting, the Prosecution asked Witness 8 to specify where the incident took place. The Witness replied that it was in Waterside and that people were killed both inside and outside the store which had been broken into. 

The Defense then resumed its questioning, asking whether the Witness knew the names of any of the individuals who were shooting or were shot, and whether he remembered what he stated regarding the names of the victims when he was interviewed by the police last November. The Witness answered no to each of the questions.

The Defense then asked Witness 8 about whether he remembered [FNM-009]. The Witness replied that he was disturbed by the incident and that he believed that [FNM-009] was a seller in Waterside who was killed during the incident, as Witness 8 had not seen him since. The Defense reiterated that the Witness had recalled [FNM-009]’s name in the interview which took place in November 2020, questioning why the Witness could not now remember anyone who had been killed during the incident. The Witness stated that the war and memories associated with the war are traumatic.

Witness 8 stated that he did not remember the specific month of the incident. The Defense noted that in his interview with the Finnish police, the Witness had stated the incident took place in May, without naming the season. The Witness paused, then reiterated that he had stated to the police that the incident had been in 2001, but they repeatedly asked him to state a specific month, as well. The Witness says he had told them he could not remember which specific month; he said that if he had stated a specific month at all, it would have just been a guess. Finally, the Witness stated that today he had said that the incident occurred in early 2001 during the dry season, without naming a specific month.

The Defense then asked the Witness more details about how he came into contact with the Finnish police. Initially, the Witness stated that he came to Monrovia a day after [Employee 1] had called him. However, there appeared to be some confusion between the Defense and the Witness about the specific timeline. The Witness reiterated that [Employee 1] got his number from [FNM-054] and then clarified that he arrived in Monrovia about three or four days after [Employee 1] had called him. The Witness added that the travel from his home to Monrovia took two days, so by the third day after the call from [Employee 1] he had arrived, and he met with the Finnish police the day after his arrival.

The Witness testified that he had not heard any other names during the incident besides “Angel Gabriel.” The Defense then questioned the Witness about the terms “WW1,” “WW2,” and “WW3.” He replied that he had heard these terms being used in Liberia, noting that although he did not know the difference between them, he recalled that President Taylor was in power during that time. The Witness added that when the incident in Waterside occurred, it could be described as “war,” since people were being killed; he believed that it was during WW1 but he was not sure of the difference between periods. The Defense noted that when the Witness spoke with the police, he had stated that WW1 took place in 2001, WW2 in 2002, and WW3 in 2003. The Witness replied that he was simply estimating the years between “WW1,” “WW2,” and “WW3,” adding that he believed WW1 lasted for a year. The Witness noted that these terms were used by civilians, militia, and soldiers during the war, and that is where he had originally heard the terms. Finally, the Witness was questioned about LURD and whether he knew anything about them. The Witness stated that although he had heard about the LURD rebels, he was not a military man and did not know whether LURD had attacked Monrovia at any point.

Witness 9

Witness 9 was heard in closed session, so trial monitors were unable to take notes.

The hearing concluded and will resume in Monrovia on Thursday, 4 March 2021, at 09:00.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *