09/03/21 [Liberia] Day 14: The Hearing of Witnesses 18 and 19

The fourteenth day of public hearings resumed on 9 March 2021 in Monrovia, Liberia.

WITNESS 18 is heard

The Prosecution questions Witness 18

Witness 18 testified as to what she remembered about the incident in Waterside. The Witness often went to Waterside to purchase goods between WW1” and WW2”, later clarifying that the events she and her friend [Person W] experienced took place in the middle of 2001. She explained that when she arrived the morning of the incident, all of the stores were still closed. She became fearful and wanted to leave Waterside, but her friends insisted on waiting for the shops to open. They stayed and began to hear what sounded like gunshots. The sound caused them to leave the area, at which point they saw a crowd of people gathered near the bridge. Some people were crying and some were being put into a pickup truck and taken across the Old Bridge, somewhere in the direction of Clara Town.

The Witness reported seeing a man near the bridge wearing army camouflage with an open, white shirt. She saw wounded people near the bridge and her friend suggested they move closer. The Witness described a man standing and holding a pistol. The Witness later clarified that she had seen this man shoot two boys, whose bodies she saw by the Old Bridge. According to the Witness, the man holding the pistol said, “When you go, tell God that I, Angel Gabriel, sent you.” Later in her testimony, Witness 18 noted that he sounded Sierra Leonean.

The Witness saw a building near the area to which some girls were taken. When she turned around, a boy hit her on the head with the butt of a gun and she collapsed. She noticed, when she regained consciousness, that all of the money she had to buy goods was stolen. After this, her friends brought her up the hill to a Mandingo man’s drugstore. The Witness explained that after she was taken care of at the drugstore, they left and saw a pickup truck full of “army people” who told the other fighters to “leave the people, what are you doing to the people”. She later said that, other than a woman who suffered a hand wound, Witness 18 could not recognize anyone else who was hurt during the incident, because she, herself, had been wounded in the head and could not remember. 

The Witness stated that they managed to reach their  parking area and left Waterside. Since that day, she has not returned to Waterside, and only recently began coming back into town to purchase goods.

Finally, the Witness explained how the Finnish police contacted her. She was in a taxi to go purchase goods when another rider, [Person X], asked her if she witnessed the events at Waterside. When she answered “yes,” he asked for her phone number and two or three months later, [Employee 1] informed her that people from Finland were coming to talk to her about the incident. Although she was afraid, he eventually convinced her to speak with the Finnish police by explaining that it was “nothing much” and that they would only ask her questions. The Witness finished her responses to the Prosecution by asserting that she had not spoken to anyone about the incident except for the Finnish police.

The Defense questions Witness 18

The Defense began by asking about Witness 18’s conversation with [Person X]. When asked if she knew [Person X]’s surname, the Witness said she had not asked for it. Pressed to explain how this conversation about the Waterside incident arose with a stranger in a taxi twenty years after the event, the Witness clarified she was conversing about what happened in Waterside, and that there were other passengers besides [Person X] in the car – however, she did not know if [Person X] had told anyone else about it.. The Witness said she generally only spoke about the Waterside incident with the friend she was with that day. Defense asked why Witness testified that she did not know [Person X]’s last name, when she had told the Finnish police in the earlier interview. She clarified that she had not asked for a last name that day in the car; it was [Employee 1] who later told her who had given him her number, mentioning [Person X] by his full name.

The Defense then alleged that the Witness’s claim that she saw Angel Gabriel kill the boys was inconsistent with her police interview, wherein the Witness said that uniformed soldiers had killed the boys. The Witness disagreed that her statements were inconsistent, saying that her testimony had been that the man who killed the boys wore a uniform with a white t-shirt underneath.

The Defense also asked Witness 18 why she had testified in court that that the incident occurred during the middle of 2001, while she had told the Finnish Police that  it had occurred during January/February 2001, in WW1. The Witness explained that the incident happened a long time ago and leaving the police interview, she realized the incident occurred during April and May because that is when she had gone to market to buy goods. 

When asked about LURD, the Witness acknowledged that she had heard LURD rebels were in Liberia at the time of the incident. She clarified that she heard LURD was in Monrovia, but she was in Nimba.

Finally, Witness 18 also discussed WW1, WW2, and WW3. Witness 18 also explained the term, “Taylor Normal Day,” which referred to time when people could leave their houses and go out – like in 2003 and 2004, after Charles Taylor had left. 

The Prosecution reexamines Witness 18

The Prosecution returned to ask two more sets of questions. First, it asked whether the mark on the Witness’s forehead was from when the child soldier struck her in Waterside with a gun. The Witness said that it was, and upon invitation, she proceeded to show the mark to the Court.Second, the Prosecution asked whether the Witness remembered an elderly man who was hurt. The Witness said she saw an elderly man with blood all over his head, indicating that his face had been cut at the jaw.

When the Judge asked about seeing a woman who had been injured in the leg, the Witness said she saw a lady bleeding from an injury, but did not see who had caused it.

WITNESS 19 is heard

The Prosecution questions Witness 19

Witness 19 testified about an incident when he was detained in Waterside. The Witness later clarified, at the Prosecution’s request, that the incident took place early in WW1, in 2001, but that he could not say what time of the year it was due to his education level. The Witness described how he and his bigger brother, [Victim 15] used to go to Waterside to get rice to sell. Just as he realized he had lost the money he was given to buy rice, and wondering how he would tell his brother, Witness 19 heard a heavy sound and saw people rushing to a store to take rice. The Witness said he joined the crowd, planning to take some rice to bring to his brother as if he had purchased it.

The Witness testified that when he was in the store, he heard another heavy sound and heard some of the others say that “Angel Gabriel” and his men were coming. As the Witness left the store with a bag of rice, he saw an armed group arrive in a vehicle. Witness 19 testified that he saw “Angel Gabriel” jump from the vehicle and order his soldiers to shoot anyone carrying rice. The men, including Angel Gabriel, opened fire for what the Witness estimated to be a minute and a half. During this shooting, some people were hurt and others were killed. The Witness dropped the bag of rice he was carrying and hid. 

The Witness later explained that he had thought Angel Gabriel was leading the armed men during the shooting at the store and that he knew his name because he had heard people there say, “Angel Gabriel and his man them coming!”

After the gunfire stopped, the Witness said he heard Angel Gabriel order his soldiers to search the store and see who was still alive “or pretending that they were dead”. The soldiers brought some older boys outside with their hands tied behind their backs, including his brother. The soldiers also brought Witness 19 and others outside, along with some women and girls who had been in the store; some carried babies on their backs. The Witness was placed with others, including the women and children, into a pickup truck. As they were placing older people into a separate pickup truck, a boy with his hands tied behind his back tried to resist, arguing with a soldier. Witness 19 said he saw Angel Gabriel shoot the boy dead with a pistol and heard him say to the soldiers, “Take these guys and kill them! When they go, they will say I, Angel Gabriel, sent them.” Witness 19 later noted that, from the way Angel Gabriel spoke, Witness 19 felt he was not a Liberian.

The Witness described how his group was driven to an unfinished building beside the Old Bridge, were ordered out of the truck and told to sit on the floor. The Witness said Angel Gabriel first took a girl and said she was his woman, then told the soldiers to pick women and “enjoy themselves.” One girl resisted, fighting with the man who tried to take her and biting his hand. The Witness said he saw Angel Gabriel turn around and shoot the girl. She fell into the Witness’s lap. Angel Gabriel walked over and asked Witness 19, “do you want to see God?” Witness 19 testifed that he shook his head, afraid. The girls were carried out. The Witness said he could not see what happened next, but he heard crying, shouting, and a gunshot. He said he asked a lady next to him who the person in command was. According to the Witness, the lady said, “That person you see there, they call him Angel Gabriel.” The Witness asked, “Why will they call a person like this Angel Gabriel when he’s not doing anything good?” The lady responded, “His name is Gabriel Massaquoi, but the name Angel Gabriel is his war name.” The Witness testified that, whilst there, he had also heard the name “Zizack,” “Zayzay Massaquoi,” or something similar.

When pressed by the Prosecution for more details, the Witness could not say exactly but estimated eleven to thirteen people were killed. He confirmed that he saw [Victim 16], who had resisted, being put into the pickup truck shot, and estimated that the victim was twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old, but that he might have been eighteen or nineteen. The Witness also could not say what type of weapons the soldiers were using, as he is not a soldier himself and never carried a gun, but he would recognise them if he saw pictures. 

The Witness said that after some time a man in a camouflage uniform arrived with some soldiers. Witness 19 testified that the uniformed man said in a Liberian accent: “But what are y’all doing here, this is not the place I expect y’all to be. This was not the reason I brought y’all here. I brought y’all here to help me, I did not bring y’all here to kill innocent people. What are y’all doing with these children?” Witness 19 later clarified that this officer was addressing Angel Gabriel. The Witness heard others call this uniformed man “Chief 50” and “General 50.” After the uniformed man arrived, the captives were brought out from the space. This is how the Witness was able to leave.

The Prosecution then turned to Witness 19’s interview with the Finnish police. The Witness said he and a friend, [Person Y], were watching football at an entertainment center when someone began to argue about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and whether there should be a War Crimes Court in Liberia. While one man advocated for moving on, Witness 19 said he spoke up about the war and about his experience at Waterside. [Person Z] approached the Witness and asked if what he was saying was true. When Witness 19 confirmed, [Person Z]  asked for his phone number, telling the Witness he or someone else would call. A few days later, the Witness received a call from [Employee 1], who said that some people might want to talk with the Witness. The Witness said that he had not talked to any organizations about the incident.

To close, Witness 19 stated that he believed the Waterside incident occurred in 2001.

The Defense questions Witness 19

The Defense began by asking the Witness about the timeframe of the incident and his relationship with [Person Z]. The Witness responded that the incident was in 2001, that he was probably fourteen years old, and that he was not close with [Person Z], having only met him once. The Witness insisted that [Person Z] did not tell him about his own experiences at Waterside or provide him the name “Angel Gabriel Massaquoi.”

The Witness next testified that, when the Finnish police interviewed him, he knew the man giving commands during the Waterside incident as “Angel Gabriel,” but that he learned from the woman next to him during the incident that his name was Gabriel Massaquoi. However, the name he heard most frequently was “Angel Gabriel.”

The Defense repeated its earlier questions regarding the time of the incident and the Witness’s age at that time. Witness 19 reiterated that he was fourteen years old at the time, but that he could not remember the month or season of the incident. When asked why he had given a different age to the Finnish police, the Witness said that he was young at the time of the Waterside incident and that his interview with the Finns was his first time being interviewed by white people. The Witness insisted that he was sure that the incident happened in 2001.

The Defense then introduced recordings of Witness 19’s interview with the Finnish police. In the recording, the Witness told the Finnish Police that his friend, [Person Z], provided his number to [Employee 1], who arranged the meeting between the Witness and the Finnish police. The Witness told the police that [Person Z] was looking for witnesses to the Waterside incident. Witness 19 added that [Person Z] told him Gabriel Massaquoi was the suspect; the Witness told the Finnish police that the only name he heard at the time of the Waterside incident was Angel Gabriel and that he did not know if Angel Gabriel’s name was Gabriel Massaquoi. The Witness confirmed that [Person Z]mentioned the name “Gabriel Massaquoi” in their conversation. The Finnish police asked the Witness to forget the name “Massaquoi,” and to proceed with his recollections about “Angel Gabriel.”

At this point, the Court paused the recording for the Defense and the Prosecution to speak with the Court. The Defense argued that if [Person Z] told the Witness the name Massaquoi, as disclosed to Finnish police but in contradiction to the Witness’s testimony in Court, then [Person Z] may also have told the Witness what happened at Waterside, and Witness 19 may not have witnessed the incident himself.

The Court then resumed playing the recording. The Witness informed the Finnish police that he and  [Person Z] had spoken two days before the interview and [Person Z] had told him, “I will come to you to help you to explain what you experienced.” [Person Z] also brought Witness 19 to his police interview. The Witness confirmed [Person Z]’s name to the Finnish police, but could not spell [Person Z’s] surname and did not know whether he had already been interviewed.

At this point, the Defense paused the recording to ask the Witness whether [Person Z] told him that Gabriel Massaquoi was the suspect in the investigation. The Witness said that the person who called him was [Employee 1] and they did not talk “about anything like that.” When the Defense asked if [Person Z] told Witness 19 that he was going to investigate Gibril Massaquoi, the Witness responded that [Person Z] had said Witness 19 was someone he was looking for, as a witness to the Waterside incident.

The Defense then resumed playing recordings from the police interview. In the final part, the Witness confirmed that he did not discuss the case with [Employee 1]. The Witness also confirmed on the recording that [Person Z] told him the name Gabriel Massaquoi, but that he (Witness 19) was more familiar with the “Angel Gabriel” from the Waterside incident.

After the recording concluded, the Defense again asked Witness 19 how old he was at the time of the incident. This time, the Witness said that he was fifteen or sixteen years old, and that the incident occurred in 2000 or 2001. The Witness reiterated that he told [Person Z] that the name he heard at the incident was Angel Gabriel; the Witness also confirmed that [Person Z] said that Angel Gabriel was also called Gibril. The Witness said that he told [Person Z] that he was unfamiliar with the name, but [Person Z] insisted that Witness 19 had mentioned the name earlier and explained that “Angel Gabriel” from the Waterside incident was Gabriel Massaquoi. Witness 19 attempted to clarify, saying that [Person Z] was just copying everything the Witness had said when they first met at the video club.

Final Questions for Witness 19

The Witness confirmed [Victim 15]s name and reported that he saw his brother, with his hands tied, lifted into a pickup truck from the store in Waterside. He has not seen his brother since.

The hearing concluded and will resume in Monrovia on Wednesday, 10 March 2021.

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