08/03/21 [Liberia] Day 13: The Hearing of Witnesses 15, 16, and 17

The thirteenth day of public hearings resumed on 8 March 2021 in Monrovia, Liberia.

Witness 15 is Heard

The Defense questions the Witness

The Witness began her testimony by explaining how she became involved in the Finnish police’s investigation. The Witness explained that she went to the Red Light Market, where she saw her friend, [Person O], who sold goods in Waterside with the Witness before the incident. [Person O] later called her and explained that a man, later identified as [Employee 1], had asked her if she had been in Waterside during the incident, and that white people wanted to know about it. . [Person O] gave the Witness’s number to the man, who later contacted her for an interview. Witness 15 told the man she was scared, but he told her there was nothing to be afraid of, as the people “just want to ask questions.”

The Witness recalled telling the white people about the incident at Waterside, explaining that she lived in Paynesville, a suburb of Monrovia, and used to go to Waterside very early in the morning to sell goods. One day, upon arriving in Waterside, she heard the sound of gunfire coming from every direction. She later clarified that the shooting was coming from Waterside towards West Point, where the fighting was concentrated. She and [Victim 14] tried to run away, but some people – later described as soldiers –  grabbed and captured her. The Witness recalled how, as she was trying to escape, she was still carrying goods on her head in a plastic bag, and how it fell when she was grabbed. The soldiers dragged her and [Victim 14] towards West Point and under the bridge, where there was a small house in which the group was based. The Witness described having seen people being beaten and killed all around her, and she saw dead bodies everywhere. She later noted that the soldiers were firing as they were taking the captives to West Point. 

The soldiers ordered Witness 15 to drink dirty water from a puddle. The Witness began to cry, and one of the men told the others, “Y’all carry this woman, y’all send her to heaven.” The Witness noted that the man identified himself by saying, “I, Angel Gabriel, sent them to heaven! When y’all go, tell God I sent you.” The soldiers then beat her with the butt of a gun, and she cried out in her dialect, “God here am I!” This caught the attention of one of the soldiers who was standing in front of “Angel Gabriel”. He asked her what dialect she had just spoken, to which the Witness responded that it was Gio. He then asked the Witness if she knew who he was. After Witness 15 said she did not, the man introduced himself as “Devil Working-God Working.” He turned to the man identified as “Angel Gabriel” and told him that she had spoken in his dialect. Devil Working-God Working then asked “Angel” to let the Witness go. The Witness recalled that Angel said, “I say let the woman go to heaven” and told her to tell God that he sent her. The soldiers then began kicking her and telling her to leave the area. The Witness started running away and saw many dead and dying as she escaped. When asked who killed these people, the Witness noted that she saw a man giving orders, but that it was the soldiers who were killing people. The Witness clarified that she did not see this man kill anyone, but that he had hit her with the butt of his gun. The Witness confirmed she did not see the man doing anything with the dead bodies.

The Witness believed that the man’s soldiers were the ones shooting as they were all around him. She did not recall any other troops around the area. When questioned whether she knew the names “RUF”, “LURD” or “LURD Rebels”, she stated that she did not know RUF, but had heard of LURD rebels. The witness did not know with what group the troops shooting and beating people were affiliated, but noted that the uniform worn by the man giving orders was grey and black with a white shirt.

The Prosecution questions Witness 15

The Prosecution began by questioning the Witness about the man who was giving orders during the incident. Witness 15 explained that the man who beat her with the butt of the gun was also giving orders, and that Devil Working-God Working called him “Gabriel.” She added that “Gabriel” also referred to himself as “Angel Michael.” The Witness explained that this man was giving orders to kill people, to send people to heaven, and that the men killed [Victim 14] before reaching West Point. The Witness recalled this event taking place between 2000 and 2001, around the end of 2000. Finally, the Witness was asked whether she remembered the man who had initially contacted her via her friend, [Person O]. She stated that the man’s name was [Employee 1]. The Witness confirmed that she and [Person O] were in Waterside at the same time. She did not know what happened to [Person O] after they scattered during the shooting, and they only met later on.

The Defense questions Witness 15 further 

The Witness stated that she and [Person O] had spoken on the phone, the morning of the incident, about going to Waterside. In response to questioning as to whether Witness 15 and [Person O] had ever discussed the incident before talking to [Employee 1] , the Witness stated [Person O] gave her number to [Employee 1]. The Defence pressed the point,  asking whether, in the past twenty years, Witness 15 and [Person O] had ever discussed the incident. Witness 15 confirmed that they used to be together, but had not thought about that time.

The Defense then asked whether “Angel” did anything other than give orders during the incident. The Witness stated that he was beating people and giving orders to “Fire the man! Fire the woman!” The Defense asked again whether the Witness had seen him doing anything to the dead bodies. After confirming she had not, the Defense noted that the Witness had previously told the Finnish police, in 2019, that “the commander took from the dead people stomach, intestines, and made it out of checkpoint.” The Witness stated that she was human and had forgotten this detail, but clarified that she had indeed seen the man take intestines from a body and “made a checkpoint out of it,” which she clarified was a line in the road indicating where people should not cross.

The Witness recalled this incident as taking place in early 2001. The Defense noted that she told the Finnish police that it might have taken place in April or May 2002, between the dry and rainy seasons. The Witness reaffirmed that the incident took place in early 2001, and referenced the different parts of the war: WW1, WW2, and WW3. She believed that the incident was in connection to the war that occurred in 2000. She attributed the discrepancies in her interview and testimony to nerves before the interview, and that she has now had more time to think.

The Defense then questioned Witness 15’s understanding of the groups involved in the incident. Reading from the summary of the earlier police interview, the Defense noted that the Witness had stated to the Finnish police that there were two groups present at the time: government troops in Waterside, and LURD on the other side of the bridge in Vai Town. The Witness recalled that she had indeed said that “Angel Gabriel” and his people were at the end of the bridge near Waterside, and “other people” were on the other side of the bridge in Vai Town. The Defense pressed the issue of whether it was “LURD” on the other side. The Witness added that, although she did not know the differences between these groups, she knew the man that took her under the bridge. The Defense noted that the Witness had also told the Finnish police that she had heard about RUF being part of the government’s troops, and that “Angel Gabriel” was their commander. The Witness noted that she may have forgotten this. The Defense then asked the Witness if she knew any other names of RUF members. She stated that, besides “Angel Gabriel,” who she also named as “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi,” she did not. At the Defense’s prompting, the Witness recalled that she had given two other names of RUF fighters to the Finnish police, Benjamin Yeaten and a soldier, [Soldier 6 ]. Witness 15 had heard of the names during the war, and said they were from Nimba County.

WITNESS 16 is Heard

The Prosecution questions Witness 16

The Witness began his testimony by recalling the Waterside incident. He explained that he went to Waterside one day to purchase goods. There was significant commotion at Waterside when he arrived; people were looting and nobody was selling. He described the place as “upside down,” explaining that he could only see soldiers and captured civilians. The civilians, including the Witness, were captured and placed in a specific area. The Witness identified the man controlling the soldiers as “Angel Gabriel.” The witness noted that he did not know whether “Angel Gabriel” was this man’s full name or his birth name, but confirmed that he  was the one giving orders. In addition, the witness noted that “Angel Gabriel” did not speak Liberian English.

The Witness then said that the commander would send soldiers to beat people inside the building where they (including Witness 16) were being held .. When people were called outside, the Witness said that he could hear guns firing and someone saying, “Go and tell the papay that I sent you.” There were fewer and fewer people left in the building, because the ones being called outside never returned. When the soldiers called the group of people in front of him, the Witness wondered if he would be called outside, too. The Witness explained that he was eventually freed because his grandmother, [Person U], was a seller in Waterside and a lot of the soldiers knew her. One of the soldiers, [Soldier 7], recognized the Witness. The Witness specified that [Soldier 7] was a Liberian soldier who was working with “Angel.” [Soldier 7] found a way for the Witness and several other men to escape through the back of the store. The Witness explained that this was the reason he is still counted among the living.

Following the Witness’s explanation of events, the Prosecution asked questions to clarify certain parts of the story. The Witness said he did not know specific names of buildings in Waterside, but later explained that the building where he was held was quite some distance from the bridge, not too close to the river. When asked, the Witness also clarified that he knew the name “Angel Gabriel”, both because the soldiers would shout his name, and because “Angel Gabriel” himself stated his name several times when the shooting took place. Following a question from the Prosecution asking whether Angel Gabriel himself shot a gun, the Witness responded that Angel Gabriel was the one giving orders, and therefore was responsible for the shooting. When asked if he saw corpses once he stepped outside, Witness 16 responded that he left via the back of the building, as he could not go out the front.

The Witness also recalled that the event he described took place in 2001, but noted that he could not  remember the month; he simply thought it had not been during the rainy season. He did not know how old he was at the time, either. When asked about the identities of the soldiers doing the shooting, the Witness stated that he did not believe they were government troops, since he did not believe government troops would kill their own people. The Witness also emphasized that their commander did not speak Liberian English.

Recalling his contact with the Finnish Police, the Witness explained how one of his friends, [Person V], asked him about the incident and if he knew anything about it. When the Witness responded that he had been there, his friend told him that there was a group who wanted to know more about what happened. When asked, the Witness confirmed that he has not talked about the incident he recounted with any other organizations.

The Defense questions Witness 16

The Defense began by asking what kind of place the Witness was held in: a store or a building. Witness 16 answered by describing a store where goods are sold.  When asked if he had seen  [Soldier 7] since his escape, the Witness said no, as Monrovia is a big place and the Witness did not live there. He further clarified that [Soldier 7] knew his grandmother, [Person U], and not his mother, who had died before the incident. The Defense pointed out that in a recording with the Finnish Police, it sounded like the Witness was talking about his mother. Witness 16 responded that his grandmother was the person who raised him, so she was like a mother to him. Later in his testimony, the Witness stated that [Soldier 7] was the only person he knew in Waterside.

When asked about his age during the incident, the Witness responded that he was probably around ten or twelve at that time. After the Defense indicated that, in his police interview, the Witness had stated he was ten or eleven, the Witness explained that he was born in the “bush” and only his mother, who had died, would have known his exact age. The Witness further noted that the incident happened in 2001, explaining that he knew the date because in 2000 they left his hometown of Nile in Bong County, and tried to make a living in Waterside the following year.

The Prosecution interjected and asked the Witness to explain his interview with the Finnish police. The Witness stated that he was asked if he knew anything about what happened in Waterside in 2001, and if he remembered which year it happened. 

The Defense resumed its questioning and asked the Witness about the police interview, particularly whether he felt worried or scared. The Witness confirmed that it was his first time seeing these people, so he did not feel “free to talk.” 

The Defense pointed out that, during the interview with the Finnish police, the Witness had stated that the incident occurred either in February or March 2002. The Witness stated that it might have been possible, but could not remember exactly. However, the Witness was clear that it was impossible for the incident to have occurred in 2003 or 2004, as he was not in Monrovia at the time. Less than a year after the incident, the Witness moved from Monrovia back to Nile.

When asked if there was a war going on at the time of the Waterside incident, Witness 16 answered that there was no real war, but everything was “upside down.” He went on to explain that he did not know anything about the wars, only that the Waterside incident happened in 2001. The Defense pointed out that the Finnish police’s summary of the interview stated that the Witness had indicated that WW2 was in 2001. The Witness said he could not remember, and could not be expected to know the exact time.

The Witness also expressed familiarity with both ULIMO-K and ULIMO-J, but did not know the difference between them. He had also heard about LURD, since many people used to say “LURD rebels.” However, the Witness was unable to tell if they were in Monrovia at the time, since he did not fight in the war, stating only that he knew they used to “cause trouble.”

At this point, the Prosecution interjected briefly to ask Witness 16 if he had been alone at Waterside, or if he saw anyone he knew there. Witness 16 responded that he only remembered knowing one person: the man who rescued him, [Soldier 7]. The Prosecution asked if he knew someone named “J” to which Witness 16 answered yes, that person helped him escape.

The Defense resumed questioning, asking how Witness 16 knew [Soldier 7]’s name was “J.” The Witness said he knew it from his grandmother. Defense then pointed out that when the Witness had spoken to the Finnish police, the Witness had called [Soldier 7] a different name, and that the only “J” Witness 16 had mentioned at the time was in reference to a friend who had died in the incident. In response, the Witness stated that people could have different names in different places, and that in Liberia people have different names. The Witness also stated that he had lost many friends during the war, and when the police interviewed him, he only remembered the name that he gave.

Referring back to the conversation with the Finnish police, the Defense noted that the Witness used the name “Angel Gabriel” in his court testimony, but only used the name “Angel” when talking to the Finnish police. The Witness explained that “Angel Gabriel” was his full name, but at the time of the interview he only called him “Angel.” This was because the Witness believed “Angel Gabriel” to be a biblical name, reserved for people who work with God. He also explained that it is possible he told the police the man referred to himself as “Angel Gabriel.” 

WITNESS 17 is Heard

The Defense questions Witness 17

After Witness 17 introduced himself as a medical personnel, Defense asked about his earlier interactions with the Finnish police. Witness 17 explained that he had seen them down at Waterside and had asked them what they were there for. Upon learning that they were interested in wartime events in 2001 and 2002, the Witness took them to the biscuit store that was broken into, as well as to the Housing and Saving Bank on Water Street. 

The Defense asked the Witness if he had mentioned the date 20th June 2003 when interviewed by the Finnish Police, to which the Witness agreed. 

The Witness went on to describe what happened when he met the Finnish Police: how he had explained to them that there had been shooting at the biscuit store where civilians went to steal. The Witness mentioned seeing two dead bodies at the Housing and Saving Bank, one dead body at the intersection of Mechlin and Water Street, and one dead body at the intersection of Randall and Water Street. 

The Witness went on to testify as to what he heard, around 2001 and 2002, from his patients who were wounded in the Waterside incident. As they cried, most of his patients said the name “Massaquoi.” Witness 17 did not know or see “Massaquoi” himself, but any time he treated a wounded person, they would say that name. One of the wounded individuals he treated was a commander, Major Fokoe who told the Witness that he had been protecting civilians so that they could get more food, and while he was protecting them, a group affiliated with Charles Taylor came and shot him. Witness 17 explained that there was no food because the government was not making supplies available and “LURD was on the other side giving government hard time.” Civilians had to find food, which is why they broke into the biscuit store.

The Defense asked the Witness if he could say something about the year 2003, to which the Witness responded that the war was almost over, and he had to pass by the bodies to get to where Major Fokoe lived. Witness 17 said this was between 2002 and 2003. In response to another question from the Defense about what happened in 2003, the Witness mentioned Charles Taylor’s forces taking over Waterside, which the victims told him was around June/July, between 2002 and 2003. The Witness described how he had learned from the wounded he was treating that the incident at the biscuit store happened between 2002 and 2003, and most of the patients had been hiding in their homes because they were afraid to come out. 

When the Defense asked if the Witness had been in contact with any other organization, Witness 17 mentioned that MSF Belgium (Médecins Sans Frontières) and Merlin (Medical Emergency Relief International) were on the field, but he was not in contact with them. 

The Prosecution questions Witness 17

The Prosecution began by asking what Witness 17 had heard at the biscuit store. The Witness clarified that he had received patients from the incident who had bullet wounds.The Prosecution asked Witness 17 about “Massaquoi” being mentioned by the victims he was helping.  The Witness related how the victims had told him that the man was “so wicked” and began to fire at them.

The Prosecution asked what Major Fokoe told the Witness as he was treating him. Witness 17 recalled that Fokoe had called him for help, and said he was shot by a militia group while protecting civilians who were at the biscuit store to buy food. The Witness related that the only name Fokoe mentioned to him was Massaquoi, who Fokoe said was the commander.The Witness recalled that Fokoe had come to him as a patient from 2002 ending in early 2003, having remained as a patient for 3 months. 

The Prosecution then asked about the location of the biscuit store, which Witness 17 explained was opposite to the New Bridge; leaving from Vai Town and crossing to Waterside, the biscuit store was on the right, by a light pole. 

The Defense resumes questioning Witness 17

The Defense asked about the presence of military troops at Waterside. The Witness explained that Major Fokoe was the commander at the government joint security base in 2001, 2002 and 2003. He stated that the government soldiers were there to protect the civilians, and the militia group used to come and harass civilians and then go. The Witness stated that he did not know whether the militia group also had a base in Waterside at that time, as he was busy treating people

When asked by the Defence  about LURD rebels, the Witness responded that they were throwing missiles at them in Waterside including to the hospital where he worked. Witness 17 stated that this occurred in “WW1, WW2,WW3”. When asked by the Defence when this was, the Witness  said that the war really intensified in 2001, 2002, and 2003. 

The Defense then asked the Witness specifically about June 2003. The Witness replied that  he had observed fighting on both sides, and in June there was a major attack by both sides because LURD wanted to cross. During this time, the Witness continued to treat people. 

The Defence asked the Witness if LURD had attacked Monrovia before June 2003. The Witness answered yes, and explained that this is what they call WW1, WW2, WW3. The Witness clarified that the government was fighting LURD during these “WWs” 

The Defense then asked the Witness about something mentioned in the summary from the Finnish police: a letter the Witness wrote in June 2003 to MSF in Mamba Point asking for help.Witness 17 clarified that he had been in West Point when he wrote the letter. The Defense asked if this was during the time the Witnesses’ patients were talking about Massaquoi, to which Witness 17 responded, yes. In response to a question from the Defence whether people were talking about Massaquoi at the same time he wrote the letter, on 20th June, the Witness clarified that he wrote the letter for help when he ran out of his own medicine supply. 

The Defence asked the Witness if he knew why they were shooting civilians, and the Witness said the only reason he knew was that civilians were looking for food. When asked by the Defence about having stated in the recording that the army was angry with the civilians because they were turning to LURD, the Witness clarified that he had said that civilians were searching for food, and the militias got angry and said they wanted to turn to LURD. 

The Defence noted that the Witness stated in a recording that when he wrote the letter, civilians were looking for food, the army was firing at them and that was Massaquoi, and the first 6 persons were shot in July 2003. The Witness clarified that this was the narration from the patients. 

The Defense then asked whether LURD was in Monrovia when the biscuit store incident occurred. Witness 17 replied that this incident occurred during WW3, which was between 2002 and 2003. The Witness clarified that LURD was in Monrovia at the time of the incident, because from 2002 LURD had attacked Monrovia, retreated, and attacked again. The Defence asked if the Witness thought that the biscuit store incident happened during the first LURD attack, to which the Witness responded that the patients he was treating explained that it happened between 2002 and 2003. When the Defence raised that Witness 17 had written to MSF for help in June 2003, the Witness stated that he was treating patients in 2002 and 2003 with his own medicine, and when he ran out, he wrote to MSF.

The Defense then asked if Witness 17 told the Finnish police about any incident that happened between 2001 and 2002. The Witness replied that he only took them to the bridge and to the E.J. Roye building where there had been snipers shooting in 2001, 2002, and 2003. The Defense noted that in the recording, the Witness said six people were shot in June 2003. The Witness explained that patients had told him, in 2003, that it was done at the biscuit store.The Defense concluded that they would need to review the recording.

At this point, the Judge interrupted the questioning because the Witness needed to leave. Witness 17 will continue his testimony on Tuesday, 16 March 2021.

The hearing concluded and will resume in Monrovia on Tuesday, 9 March 2021.

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