05/03/21 [Liberia] Day 12: The Hearing of Witnesses 12, 13, and 14

The twelfth day of public hearings resumed on 5 March 2021 in Monrovia, Liberia.

Witness 12 is heard

The Prosecution questions Witness 

Witness 12, a traditional Liberian soap maker, testified that he was present at Waterside market the day of the incident because he was trying to purchase caustic soda and sodium hydroxide to make soap, which was in short supply during this period. Although he clarified that he could not remember exactly when the event took place he remembered it being during 2001. The Witness claimed that while at Waterside market, he was abducted by “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi” while trying to escape violence and was taken to the Old Bridge. While on or near the Old Bridge, Witness 12 alleged that his belongings were stolen by “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi’s” men who accused him of being a spy and stabbed him in the left eye, causing him to bleed a lot from that eye socket. The Witness noted that the soldiers believed he was using the soap chemicals to create bombs. The Witness explained he is still blind in the eye that the soldiers injured that day. 

Witness 12 recalled that while at Old Bridge he witnessed many people being killed by “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi’s” men (who included many fighters who were still “small boys”) and that these same fighters carried women away to the bush and then left them at a nearby stall. Witness 12 mentioned that at some point in all of this, he was taken under the bridge. Additionally, he explained that his wife, [Victim 10], and his stepfather, [Victim 11], were carried away by soldiers and he has not seen them since. Witness 12’s granddaughter, [Person P], was also taken by soldiers under the Old Bridge where “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi’s” men attempted to rape her— but she managed to escape. 

According to Witness 12, there were two armed groups present at the Old Bridge that day, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and President Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). Furthermore, the Witness was able to identify several members of the NPFL “Special Forces,” including [Soldier 2] and [Soldier 3]. [Walker] and [Doe] knew Witness 12 from before, as they both used to buy soap from him to wash their clothes. They asked the Witness why he was being detained. Witness 12 stated that, once he explained that he was carrying the chemicals to create soap, the two soldiers spoke to his captors, explaining that he is just an old man who makes soap, not bombs. They then spoke to “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi” to ask that he let Witness 12 go. The Witness explained that this is how he was released; he was too afraid at the time to ask them to return the things he had bought.

Witness 12 closed his initial comments by explaining that he recalled hearing on the radio that people were violating international humanitarian law in Liberia. He mentioned that he had received training on international humanitarian law from the International Red Cross (IRC) in 1986, so he knew that when a combatant surrenders, that person should not be harmed. However, he also knew that in Liberia, these rules did not seem to apply – if you were captured and you said you are a Gio or Mandingo, you would be killed.

At this point, the Prosecution stepped in to ask Witness 12 how he knew the name, “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi.” Witness 12 simply stated that he knew the name, then went on to explain that [Employee 1] used to buy soap from him and that, once when [Employee 1] was heading to Lofa, Witness 12 mentioned the incident at Waterside. [Employee 1] mentioned that Witness 12’s story about the “notorious” Sierra Leonean at Waterside was very interesting; he gave the Witness his number so they could speak again. 

A slightly confusing exchange ensued about what names [Employee 1] and the various soldiers used to address the man being called, “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi.” The Defense objected to the Prosecution’s ongoing attempt to clarify how Witness 12 knew this name. However, the judges permitted the Prosecution to continue.

Witness 12 went on to explain that he was able to identify “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi” because of how he introduced himself as being the one who could “send people to God.” The Witness identified “Massaquoi” as a senior commander of the RUF because of the way that he and the men spoke to one another in Krio rather than Liberian English, and the way that “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi” was the one to give the order to tie the Witness up and arrest him for being a “dissident” or a spy. Additionally, the men referred to “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi” as their commander.

Finally, Witness 12 explained how he knew about the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP). He stated that [Employee 1] told him about the organization when Witness 12 shared his experience at Old Bridge. The Witness had also told his story to someone named [Person P], but he had not seen [Person P] since. When asked about names [Employee 1] had mentioned to him, Witness 12 explained that, after he mentioned to [Employee 1] that he had heard some people call the commander “Gibril” and others call him “Angel”, [Employee 1] explained that this person was “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi.” The Defense interjected, telling the witness that the Prosecution was asking if it was [Employee 1] that told him “the name”. The witness answered that it was not. It is unclear if the witness understood which name the Defense was referring to.

Defense questions Witness 12

In response to Defense counsel’s clarifying questions about Witness 12’s relationship with [Employee 1], the Witness explained that [Employee 1] used to buy soap from him back in 2001. Witness 12 explained that after the Waterside incident, [Employee 1] had stopped by en route to Lofa County. This was when they discussed the events at Waterside, including “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi,” whom everyone already knew about. The Witness explained that [Employee 1] had suggested they should talk again, but had not said he was looking for witnesses at that time.

The Defense then returned to the Waterside incident, asking Witness 12 how “Angel Gabriel” was dressed. Witness 12 stated that he was wearing camouflage and a t-shirt. When asked how he was aware that “Angel Gabriel” was a member of the RUF, Witness 12 explained that he was familiar with Charles Taylor’s forces, and that two of them, [Soldier 2] and [Soldier 3], had told him that the man who had injured Witness 12’s eye was a Sierra Leonean member of the RUF.

At this point, the Defense noted that when the Finnish police interviewed Witness 12 last year, he had been unable to state whether “Angel Gabriel” was a member of the RUF. The Witness explained that he had been confused at the time. He explained that he had heard that [Soldier 2] and [Soldier 3] had died, but could not confirm.

When asked if anyone else could possibly have shared Witness 12’s story with others, the Witness said he did not know.

Finally, the Witness recalled that the LURD rebels entered Ganta on 3 March 2003. He then proceeded to describe his understanding of the terms WW1, WW2, and WW3. According to the Witness, WW1 took place when Charles Taylor entered Liberia with his men in 1989, WW2 occurred when ULIMO came in 1990, and WW3 occurred in 2003 when LURD rebels entered Ganta.

Witness 13 is heard

The Prosecution questions Witness 13

Witness 13’s testimony began with her recollection of the day her aunt, [Victim 12], was killed and Witness 13 was captured. She and her aunt sold fish in Waterside. Early on this particular day, which the Witness recalled being in 2001, Witness 13 and [Victim 12] saw people running around when they arrived at Waterside and heard the sounds of guns. The two decided to escape but, while trying to leave, [Victim 12] was shot and killed. Witness 13 later clarified that soldiers calling themselves “ATU” were doing the shooting. As she wept over her aunt’s body, the Witness was arrested by these soldiers and taken down to Waterside bridge.

Under the bridge, Witness 13 was tied tabey and sat down with other arrestees. The soldiers went to call their “big man.” When he arrived, he grabbed a young girl from beside the Witness and said, “I, Angel Gabriel, I am going to kill you and you should tell God I sent you.” Witness 13 said he spoke like a Sierra Leonean. The Witness stated that she saw this “Angel Gabriel” shoot the young girl with her own eyes, and that they started to beat people after that.

Witness 13 said they sat there for some time as the soldiers grabbed some women and carried them to a small building. The Witness stressed that she was lucky not to be taken to the building; she had heard from the soldiers who came back that they were raping the women they took to the building. 

Witness 13 described these soldiers as a mixed group of Liberians and Sierra Leoneans; there were also children with guns. Later, a man arrived and asked the soldiers who the arrestees under the bridge were. The soldiers claimed the arrestees were “rebels,” but Witness 13 and the others explained themselves to the man and asked him to help. Witness 13 remembered the man loosening the rope from them and saying they should escape. Witness 13 and other arrestees were able to do so. She stated that she felt lucky she got away; the soldiers had killed many people.

After clarifying a few details from earlier testimony, the Prosecution then asked the Witness about her earlier interview on this same incident. The Witness recalled that [Employee 1] initially contacted her, telling Witness 13 he got her number from [Person R]. [Employee 1] asked the Witness whether she had heard that some people were coming to talk about the incident that took place in Liberia, and the Witness asked whether he meant the incident in Waterside. She explained this is how she became a part of the process.

Witness 13 stated she had not discussed the incident with any other organization. She further clarified that while she was familiar with [[Person R]] from their shared time in Waterside, she did not know [[Person R]]’s family name and only found out he gave [Employee 1] her number when [Employee 1] called her.

The Defense questions Witness 13

The Defense began its questioning by asking why Witness 13 had told the police earlier that [Person S] had shared her number. The Witness clarified that it was [Person R]. not [Person S] who gave her number. When the Defense pointed out that the Finnish police wrote that [Person S] gave Witness 13’s number, Witness 13 suggested that they may have made a mistake and reaffirmed that it was [Person R]. When asked whether she knew [Person S], the Witness responded “Who is [Person S]?” At this point, the Defense noted to the Court that they would listen to the audio clip of the interview.

Moving on in response to Defense questions, Witness 13 stated  her aunt’s name and that she was her aunt from her mother’s side. Asked how old she was when the incident occurred, Witness 13 gave her birth year, and invited the Defense to“do the calculation.” Witness 13 was sure the incident happened in 2001 because it was the year her aunt was killed; she could not forget that year. Witness 13 did not remember any other incidents in Monrovia that year.

The Defense noted that in her earlier interview, Witness 13 told the police that the young girl killed in front of her had her throat cut, but here the Witness said the girl was shot. Witness 13 responded emphatically that, “They shot her!” and that the man who shot her stated “I am Angel Gabriel…”

The court played a recording in which Witness 13 tells investigators that one Person S]] gave her number to [Employee 1] and [Employee 1] called her. Upon hearing this recording, Witness 13 agreed that she said [Person S] gave her number in the video and noted that [Person S] was with her in Waterside and “is on this same program.” The Witness explained that [Employee 1] initiated this program, but did not tell Witness 13 anything about it. [Employee 1] only asked her about the incident, and Witness 13 did not know other specific people in the program.

The Defense then played another video clip in which Witness 13 said that the man calling himself “Angel Gabriel” killed the young girl by cutting her neck. The Witness explained this inconsistency—as well as her earlier statement that [Person S] gave her number—by noting her fear and discomfort when she made the statements, as it was her first time. Witness 13 reiterated that the main person who gave her number was [Person R], and that the man had shot the girl.

Witness 14 is heard

The Prosecution questions Witness 14 

Witness 14, a used clothing reseller, explained that he was searching for goods in Waterside with his friend [Victim 14] at the time of the incident. The Witness was unsure of the exact month because the war had dragged on, but that the year of the incident was either 2001 or 2002. Witness 14 described this period in Monrovia as having intermittent warfare, and that “some days things can be normal and on other days, things cannot be normal.” The Witness and his friend had taken the bus to Waterside, and upon their arrival, they saw fewer people were selling than normal. They walked throughout Waterside to find something to buy. As they approached the intersection of Mechlin Street and Water Street, they saw people carrying biscuits from near an old bank. They decided to go over there.

Witness 14 recalled that there was a crowd at the place and many people were going in and out of the building. The Witness and his friend decided to stay outside of the building and buy goods from the people who had managed to get some things from inside. 

As they were buying goods, Witness 14 suddenly heard shouting coming from behind the crowd, followed by gunshots, and people then began to fall to the ground or run away. The Witness then saw soldiers with guns, and he and [Victim 14] tried to run away with the crowd. However, before they were able to escape, [Victim 14] fell to the ground, wounded and shouting. The Witness testified that he tried to check on [Victim 14] but before he had the chance, the Witness noticed blood coming from his own hand: he had been shot. At this point, he and others were captured by the soldiers. Witness 14 testified that [Victim 14] was no longer speaking when the soldiers took them and carried them to the Old Bridge checkpoint. 

The Witness explained that the soldiers stated they would kill all of them for looting the store. He explained that they had put everyone on the ground and began shooting into the air. The Witness was unable to identify any of the soldiers at Old Bridge because they spoke with Sierra Leonean accents.

Witness 14 explained that he was able to identify one of the men as the commander because the soldiers responded to him by saying, “Yes chief, yes chief.” The Witness recalled that the soldiers called him “Angel Gabriel” and that this man told the captured people that he would kill all of them for looting and to tell God that “Angel Gabriel” had sent them. “Angel Gabriel” then took two men from the four sitting opposite the Witness far away from them, said that he was going to show them what he could do, and shot them. The Witness said “Angel Gabriel” then ordered the two other men be removed to West Point, at which point they were placed in a truck and not seen again.

Witness 14 went on to explain that uniformed soldiers loyal to Charles Taylor jumped down from the bridge and asked what was happening. An argument ensued between the uniformed soldiers and the Sierra Leonean soldiers. The Witness testified that he recognized two of the uniformed soldiers, [Soldier 4] and [Soldier 5]. Witness 14 called out to [Soldier 5], who asked the Witness what he was doing there. Witness 14 explained to [Soldier 5] that the soldiers had killed [Victim 14]. At this point, the other captured people began running away, but he ran to [Soldier 5] who told him that he had been sent by Benjamin Yeaten to rescue them and take control of the situation. The Witness then described how [Soldier 5] took him and some other wounded people to J.F.K. Hospital in Sinkor in a pickup truck. Witness 14 asked [Soldier 5] to tell his friends what happened to him the next time he was at the market.

Though Witness 14 was unable to specify what month these events took place, he did state his belief that the incident took place in 2001 or 2002. He also noted that he still bears a scar on his hand from being shot that day.

When asked how he came into contact with Finnish police, Witness 14 explained that a friend, [Person T], had called him and explained that he  had a conversation with someone inquiring about the incident at the biscuit shop. Although the friend had not been there himself, he had told the inquirer that Witness 14 had been victimized at Waterside and thought it may be related to the biscuit store incident. Although skeptical as to why someone would want to contact him about “something that happened way back,” Witness 14 eventually gave [Person T] permission to put this person in contact with him. They called the Witness that same day.

The person asked Witness 14 whether he could come to town. The Witness indicated it would be difficult, but relaxed when the person said they could meet at the friend’s place. Witness 14 came the next day and the person told him that another man also wanted to hear what Witness 14 had to say. Witness 14 wanted to bring his friend, and the person said that their friend was not a bad guy, suggesting Witness 14 need not be scared. Witness 14 followed the person and met the people who questioned him. Witness 14 was asked whether he would tell his story again if called at any time, and the people who interviewed him paid for his transport. Witness 14 asserted in a firm voice that this was the first time he had talked about his experiences to any other person or organization.

The Defense questions Witness 14

The first stage of questioning from the Defense focused on earlier testimony about the Waterside incident. When pressed to clarify which bridge he had mentioned earlier, the Witness explained that at the time of the incident, the bridge was known as “New Bridge” and that its proper name is “Gabriel Talker Bridge.” He also reiterated that the head of the “uniform soldiers” had told the soldiers speaking in Sierra Leonean accents that Benjamin Yeaten had sent him to control the situation. It had taken about three hours for the troops to arrive. Witness 14 also mentioned that there had been sounds of bombing that day; he assumed from the direction of the sounds that the bombing was from the LURD.

The Defence next asked about Witness 14’s initial contact with Finnish police. Witness 14 said that [Person T], who gave his number to the interested party, had several names.s. It was in [Person T]’s house that Witness 14 met [Employee 1]. Witness 14 said he did not talk about the incident at Waterside at this meeting; [Employee 1] simply brought Witness 14 to see “the people.” The Witness could not remember the day this took place, only that it was in 2001 or 2002. He attributed his uncertainty on the passage of time.

The hearing concluded and will resume in Monrovia on Monday, 8 March 2021.

Leave a Reply