10/03/21 [Liberia] Day 15: The Hearing of Witnesses 20 and 21
The fifteenth day of public hearings resumed on March 10th 2021 in Monrovia, Liberia.
Witness 20 is Heard
The Prosecution questions Witness 20
The Witness recalled an incident in which she was captured by soldiers at Waterside. Before the war broke out, the Witness used to sell clothes. Once war came, the clothes were no longer selling, so she began selling food. She used to go to Waterside with her little sister, [Victim 17], in order to buy goods to sell to the “other side.” The Witness later clarified that she was referring to Red Light, and pointed in its direction when asked on which side of the Old Bridge it was situated. She explained that at the time, it was safe to go from Red Light to Waterside, which is why she and her sister were “brave” enough to undertake the journey.
Witness 20 explained that when soldiers would break open stores, the Witness and others would go and buy food from them. The day of the incident, she was doing business at the store in this way. At some point, she saw another group of soldiers approaching by car wearing the same uniform as the soldiers who would typically open stores and sell things to civilians. When that second group of soldiers arrived, they started firing into the crowd. Witness 20 confirmed that she personally witnessed the soldiers open fire on civilians. She also saw their commander giving them orders. She later clarified that he gave the order to shoot while he and his men were approaching in the car. She remembered a soldier clearly calling the commander “Angel Gabriel.” The Witness further explained that whenever the commander killed someone, he would say that he was sending them to God. Later in her testimony, the Witness stated that “Angel Gabriel” did not speak Liberian English; he spoke like a Sierra Leonean.
According to the Witness, there was a large group of people present during the incident; some were killed, some were raped or tied up, and others were taken. When asked if she had seen anyone die at the store, Witness 20 recounted that when the soldiers started firing, she called for her little sister, [Victim 17]. As her sister ran towards her, she was shot and killed.
Witness 20 continued describing her capture. She stated that her captors were taking them towards West Point, to a spot after the Old Bridge towards LEC Junction. On the journey, they passed numerous bodies, some children and some tied up. The Witness was sure the soldiers would have killed her had they reached the spot. However, she knew one of the soldiers, later identified as [Soldier 8], who saved her. This is how she was able to escape.
She did not know what happened at the Bridge as she never arrived there.
The Witness believed that the incident happened between WW1 and WW2, which she tied to 2001 and 2002, when the war was “really hot” in Monrovia. She could not remember with certainty due to the time that had passed, but believed it occurred in the middle of the year. Citing her lack of education, Witness 20 could not recall the age difference between her younger sister and herself, nor could she remember her own age at the time.
The Prosecution concluded by asking the Witness about her interview with Finnish police. Witness 20 explained she got in contact with them indirectly through [Employee 1]. Her children’s father, [Person A4], called her and told her he had met [Employee 1] in Lofa County and that he was talking to people about the Waterside incident. The Witness stated that she had never personally spoken with [Employee 1] and did not discuss the incident with any other organization.
The Defense questions Witness 20
The Defense asked the Witness about her family. She said her children’s father, [Person A4], knew she had been wounded in the Waterside incident and that her sister died during the incident. She said she has three children and stated the years they were born.
When asked about the man who gave orders, the Witness said he wore a Liberian soldier uniform, calling it the Armed Forces of Liberia uniform. She pointed to someone in the courtroom who was wearing a green watch, saying that it was almost the same color.
As to whether the route between Red Light and Waterside was safe, Witness 20 reiterated that it was not dangerous, since there were government forces on that side of the bridge. However, she heard that Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) forces were in the Duala area, across the bridge.
The Defense pointed to inconsistencies in the Witness’s statements, saying that when the Finnish police interviewed the Witness, she had stated the commander was wearing regular clothes, but during the hearing she described him wearing a green uniform. The Witness explained that he was wearing camouflage over regular clothing and that she considered ‘camouflage’ and ‘uniform’ to mean the same thing. The Witness said the man was wearing camouflage over his t-shirt when she was carried away.
The Witness said she did not know when the war ended, as he had returned to Nimba County.
When asked for the names of people she had known at the Waterside incident, Witness 20 named the soldier who saved her, [Soldier 8], and a friend called [Person A5]. The Witness also stated that there were a few others she knew who had been there, though she could not recall their names. The Witness had learned later that one of her friends had died in the incident. Another two managed to escape, although she did not know how.
Witness 21 is Heard
The Prosecution questions Witness 21
The Prosecution began by questioning the Witness regarding Foday Sankoh and the RUF.
The Witness began his testimony by explaining that Foday Sankoh was the former rebel leader of the RUF and that RUF is an abbreviation for the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone. The Witness elaborated that the RUF was a group that fought against the government of Sierra Leone. Although he was not a member of the RUF at the beginning of the conflict, Witness 21 explained that he later joined the group. During his time with the RUF, the Witness became the bodyguard to Foday Sankoh. Around 1999, or the time the Lomé Peace Agreement was signed, Witness 21 was assigned to receive members of the RUF at a guest house in Monrovia. When asked whether he remembered any of the guests, Witness 21 recalled several names including Sam “Mosquito” Bockarie, Gibril Massaquoi, Ibrahim Bah, Abdul Razak, Kenneth McCauley, and Issa Sesay. He said they were “high authorities”in the RUF at the time, with Issa Sesay being the commander in charge when Foday Sankoh was away. He also explained Gibril Massaquoi was serving as the RUF spokesman at the time, but could not remember his rank.
Around 2000, the Witness recalled Massaquoi arriving at the guest house. This was during a time when Foday Sankoh had an issue with Mosquito and had appointed Issa Sesay to take over as commander. The Witness told the Court that Issa Sesay had traveled to Monrovia for a diplomatic mission with Gibril Massaquoi, Kenneth McCauley, and Abdul Razak; Sesay had told Witness 21 himself that he had brought these specific individuals with him.
The group stayed at the guest house during this trip and their movements were facilitated by Benjamin Yeaten, who would take individuals out from the house to go around. The Witness clarified that “going around” meant that the individuals from the guest house would go to places like Kolahun and Voinjama “to be there to help to fight to put situation under control.” Witness 21 also noted that sometimes the group would go to White Flower, where Charles Taylor lived, to see him and obtain weapons. The Witness elaborated that Yeaten would take some of these men, including Massaquoi, to the frontline, either by road or by helicopter.
The Witness explained that he was aware of Yeaten taking Massaquoi and others to the frontline because the men would plan everything at the guest house and would sometimes go to the airfield in Monrovia to take a helicopter. Witness 21 was also aware of trips he did not personally join for, since he was the base head of the guest house and knew about everyone’s comings and goings, as well as when the vehicles and helicopters were being used. The Witness recalled going only twice to Voinjama with Massaquoi and the others in early 2001. The Witness added that the group took other trips in 2000; however, he did not accompany them at that time.
When asked about the intention of the trips, the Witness stated: “The intention was to go and fight because those areas had the enemies. The intention was to go and fight.” There were “50 calibres” loaded onto a pickup, and everyone would have a gun, including Massaquoi. On these trips, Witness 21 not only witnessed battles himself but also observed Massaquoi taking part in the fighting. While Witness 21 could not recall specific dates of trips taken by Massaquoi while he was in Monrovia, he knew that Massaquoi would travel with Yeaten to Lofa County, sometimes to Kolahun. The Witness clarified that Benjamin Yeaten would sometimes take Massaquoi and others to areas that the Witness did not know, including outside of Monrovia.
The Witness recalled Massaquoi staying in Monrovia until 2001, when they were told to leave the guest house. Massaquoi and others rented a new place, where they lived until they all returned to Sierra Leone. The Witness stated that when the group, including Massaquoi, left Liberia, they went by road through Gbarnga to Voinjama, and then through Foya to Koindu, which is in Sierra Leone. The Witness confirmed he was with them at the time they left Liberia.
In February 2002, Witness 21 returned to Monrovia, but could not remember if Massaquoi also returned. He stated that when in Monrovia, Massaquoi would spend time with Abdul Razak. Massaquoi also spent time with his girlfriend, [Person A1]. The Witness added that Massaquoi had another girlfriend he later identified as [Person A2]. The Witness stated that [Person A1] was with Massaquoi in Monrovia and that she remained there after Gibril Massaquoi left for Sierra Leone in 2001, adding that she was pregnant at the time. The Witness recalled that when he would go on the trips to the frontline, Massaquoi would go there with his other girlfriend, [Person A2]. The Witness recalled taking a trip with Massaquoi and [Person A2] to Voinjama, where they would encounter ULIMO troops coming from the Guinea side. When asked whether he remembered any other names for [Person A2], the Witness stated that he could not. However, he added that Abdul Razak had a girlfriend by the name of [Person A3] and that both girlfriends would go to the frontline with them.
The Witness recalled that the trips he took with Yeaten to the frontline would last three to four days, and the trips he was not on with Yeaten and Massaquoi would sometimes take up to a week. The Witness explained that the group would transport equipment to the frontline, including AK-47s, grenades, bombs, RPGs, and other weapons. Witness 21 knew this because he was with the group when they went to President Charles Taylor’s armory in White Flower. He also explained that there was a deal in place between the RUF and Charles Taylorand that sometimes they would pay for supplies and ammunition with diamonds. When asked if Massaquoi had any part in bringing diamonds to pay for supplies, the Witness explained that Ibrahim Bah used to work with Massaquoi and Issa Sesay on this matter, saying that “all of them would sit together and know what to do.” They would then transport the supplies from White Flower to the frontline either by motor vehicle or helicopter. The Witness confirmed that they took supplies on the same trip he was on.
The Prosecution then inquired about the distance between the guest house and White Flower. The Witness explained that the guest house was located in Congo Town, which is approximately five minutes away from White Flower by car. When asked which of the individuals at the guest house had met with Charles Taylor, the Witness responded that Gibril Massaquoi, Issa Sesay, and Abdul Razak met with him. The Witness explained that whilst in Monrovia, they were “under the umbrella of Benjamin Yeaten security,” and that it was safe for them to move around the city.
The Witness explained that the RUF had come from Sierra Leone to help Charles Taylor and that some of them were based in Lofa County. When asked if he was aware of any activities involving the RUF in Monrovia, the Witness explained that when Mosquito arrived in Monrovia with RUF soldiers, he posted them to a unit known as “ATU” (Anti-Terrorist Unit). The Witness elaborated that when any fighting took place in Monrovia and the surrounding area, the soldiers used to be sent there to fight and that many RUF soldiers took part. The Witness could not recall if Massaquoi was involved in Monrovia “activities”, but confirmed that Massaquoi did go to Lofa in 2000 or 2001.
The Witness was then asked if he recalled how the Finnish police contacted him. He explained that while in Freetown, he began receiving calls asking him to meet with some people from Finland, but he did not. When he came to Monrovia last year to visit family, he received a call from someone called “Thomas.” During the call, Thomas explained that he had been unsuccessful reaching Witness 21 in Freetown. Thomas said he had gotten the number from someone named “Alain Werner.” The Witness told Thomas he had known Alain Werner since 2007, when Mr. Werner was a prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. During the call, Thomas told him that there was a case about Gibril Massaquoi and that Massaquoi had asked his lawyers to request that Witness 21 testify for him. The Witness indicated that he was willing to tell the truth about what happened. They then conducted the interview with Gibril Massaquoi’s lawyer by videolink.
Asked to speak more about Alain Werner, Witness 21 said he was a lawyer who had worked for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, but clarified that he did not know where Alain currently worked. The Witness was then asked whether he was familiar with Civitas Maxima or of any connection between Civitas Maxima and Alain Werner. The Witness answered affirmatively to both questions. When asked about Alain Werner’s role in Witness 21’s interview with the Finnish police, Witness 21 explained that he had worked with Alain for some time on issues unrelated to Gibril Massaquoi, and that they had never discussed Mr. Massaquoi. He further stated that he was working with Mr. Werner on other issues which he could not disclose without Mr. Werner’s consent. The Prosecution then concluded by asking if he had spoken about the matter discussed there today with anyone, to which the Witness replied he had “not discussed with anyone here except the interview with the Finnish police” and that the last time he met Massaquoi was in 2007 in Freetown.
The Defense questions Witness 21
The Defense began by questioning the Witness about the events of 1999. The Witness explained that he came to Monrovia in 1999 when the Lomé Peace Agreement was signed. He added that military groups used to cross the border from Sierra Leone to Liberia and explained that RUF soldiers would be sent to help Charles Taylor when he had difficulties in the war. At the time, those troops were led by a commander called Karmoh “War Eagle” Kanneh, who used to “come and go” to Liberia between 1999 and 2000. The witness stated that Kanneh’s forces used to have battles between Voinjama and Kolahun; Gibril Massaquoi would not travel with Kanneh’s forces, but he would come from Monrovia.
When asked about the most natural route from Monrovia to Sierra Leone via vehicle, the Witness explained that coming from Sierra Leone, you would go through Foya, Kolahun, Voinjama, Zozor, and then to Gbarnga; from there, you would pass through other towns to arrive in Monrovia. There was another southern route from Sierra Leone: if you were based in Vahun, you could reach Bomi, and that the main crossing between Liberia and Sierra Leone was from Koidu and Foya. Witness 21 clarified that there was no alternate route from Monrovia to Sierra Leone.
The Witness was asked whether Sam Bockarie was with the RUF when they crossed into Sierra Leone. He replied that Sam Bockarie had left the RUF and went to Monrovia with some RUF soldiers. The witness clarified that Massaquoi did not go with Bockarie’s group. The Witness explained that Sam Bockarie was living at a friend’s house in Elwa Junction while in Monrovia. This was in 1999, and the relationship between Sam Bockarie and Gibril Massaquoi was not very cordial. The Witness explained that after “Mosquito” had left and Issa Sesay was in charge, Sesay and Massaquoi went to Monrovia with some other delegates for a diplomatic mission. At the time, Benjamin Yeaten was the commander and RUF troopsi arriving had to inform Yeaten what operation they were there for. Issa Sesay told everyone that Gibril Massaquoi was to be the spokesman. Sometimes Benjamin Yeaten would come and “go around” with Gibril Massaquoi, Issa Sesay, and others. The Defense asked the Witness if he knew of any instances or people that Massaquoi would have met as part of his diplomatic duties. Witness 21 recalled that he used to see some of Charles Taylor’s officials at the guest house and that Yeaten or other people would call on him.
The Defense asked the Witness what he knew about ECOWAS and whether Massaquoi was connected to it in any way. The Witness stated that he knew Massaquoi came to Liberia during that time and that Sesay told him that Massaquoi was there for diplomatic purposes. The Witness was not present at these meetings.
The Witness was then asked about an arms delivery involving Benjamin Yeaten in Lofa. He recalled that they had some jeeps and a pickup which had a 50 calibre mounted on it. The Witness added that when they were transporting weapons by helicopter, they would either use one or two, and that up to thirty people could be on board. Weapons were delivered in Lofa County to the commander in charge, called Tamba, who represented the ATU. The RUF was also there to assist; they took instructions from Tamba. Witness 21 acknowledged that he had been present twice for the weapons delivery.
(At this stage the Court requested the interpreter tell the Witness that: “The Court wants to warn you that you do not need to answer any questions that can incriminate you.”)
The Witness stated that he did not take part in the fighting. He said that while the others were engaged in combat, he would remain at the base. The Witness recalled that the first battle he was present at occurred when they went to Voinjama and were at the base Tamba commanded. During this time, ULIMO factions were attacking villages around Voinjama, near the Guinea border. Massaquoi, Yeaten, and others went to fight back, but the Witness was told by Yeaten to stay at the base in Voinjama Town. The Witness stated that the battle lasted approximately three hours before they returned. Witness 21 said he did not see the use of arms, but heard the sounds.
(The Witness was reminded again by the Court that he has the right to not answer self-incriminating questions).
The Defense asked the Witness about the second trip he took. The Witness stated that they took weapons and ammunition to Kolahun and stayed three days at the base, before returning. He added that there were no attacks during this trip, noting that some troops simply patrolled around the camp.
The Witness explained that the RUF troops were there to help Charles Taylor; he did not know why the RUF paid for weapons to fight for Taylor. The Witness only knew that Issa Sesay, Gibril Massaquoi, and Ibrahim Bah used to come from Freetown with diamonds and they “used to sit down and decide what to do.”
Following this, the Witness was questioned about Gibril Massaquoi’s movements between Monrovia and Sierra Leone in 2000 and 2001. The Witness stated that he knew that they all went back to Sierra Leone in the middle of the year 2001, but he had no knowledge about Massaquoi travelling back to Sierra Leone during that time.
The Defense then asked if he recalled the season he had stated to the Finnish police regarding the time he went back to Sierra Leone. The Witness responded he could not remember.
At this point, the Court played a clip from the Finnish police interview, in which the Witness stated that Gibril Massaquoi was in Monrovia from early 2000 to early 2001, but he did not recall the month he left for Sierra Leone. When asked if Massaquoi took a lot of trips, the Witness replied “yes,” and that Benjamin Yeaten was the security commander.
After the clip ended, the Witness restated that Gibril Massaquoi was in Liberia in early 2001, not that he had left at that time.
(The Court debates in Finnish)
The Defense resumed questioning to ask the Witness if they had gone back to Sierra Leone together in 2001. Witness 21 replied that they had, but once back in Sierra Leone, “everyone went about his business.”
(The Court debates in Finnish)
When asked by the Defense about the timing of the guest house in Liberia, the Witness specified that they lived there from 1999 to 2001. Then, because the Liberian government had told them they “should move because of the eyes on RUF,” Gibril Massaquoi and the others rented a property, which was located only three hundred to four hundred meters away from the guest house.
The Defense followed up about a few additional points, establishing from the Witness that Gabriel Massaquoi had a war name, though he could not remember Massaquoi’s radio call sign. It was also clarified that Witness 21 was initially contacted about speaking with the Finnish people by a man he knew in Freetown, whose name he could not remember. He specified that he knew this person because they were both Sierra Leonean, but they had not worked together.
The Defense asked the Witness if he had worked for an organization and if he had participated in activities with Civitas Maxima, like helping them obtain witnesses. The Witness stated that he had previously worked with Civitas Maxima, but “not on this case of Gibril Massaquoi pertaining Liberia.” When asked if he had assisted Civitas Maxima on other cases, Witness 21 responded that he was present in Court for this case, and not other cases.
The Witness was asked why he did not want to be heard in Sierra Leone, since he was from there. He stated that he was in Liberia because he was visiting family and he had “decided to finally talk.” The Defense asked if the Witness had messaged anyone about being afraid or the fact that he did not want to be heard in Sierra Leone. Witness 21 responded that he had told Thomas, the police officer who contacted him, that he wanted to testify in closed session due to security concerns. Following up, the Defense asked if the Witness had told anyone else about this before telling Thomas, and if the Witness could explain why Alain Werner had contacted Thomas regarding the Witness’s concerns about testifying in Sierra Leone. The Witness responded that Freetown is his home, but he was worried about his security there and he had told Thomas. The Defense asked who had then told Alain Werner, because the Finnish police had informed the Defense that Mr. Werner had contacted Thomas regarding the Witness’s security concerns. Witness 21 stated that “Alain and myself can talk. But we didn’t say anything about this case.”
The hearing concluded and will resume in Monrovia on the 16th of March 2021.