04/02/21 [Finland] Day 2: Introducing the Case

The second day of public hearings at the Pirkanmaa District Court began with the Assistant Prosecutor delivering an overview of the Prosecution’s case. The Assistant Prosecutor began by showing various locations to make sure the Court had an overview of the crime sites. The following places were emphasized by the Assistant Prosecutor:

  • Lofa County was shown on a map of Liberia. The villages of Kamatahun Hassala and Yandohun (both located in Lofa County) were presented as the sites of the alleged murders that form the basis of Charge 4.1.3. This includes the murder of civilians who were locked inside houses which were then set on fire.
  • The Assistant Prosecutor also showed a few other maps of the villages, as prepared by the National Bureau of Investigation (Keskusrikospoliisi, KRP). The Assistant Prosecutor then showed aerial pictures, including one in which various sites were marked, indicating houses that had been burned down. Another aerial picture showed a house where the Prosecution claims that women were raped. This was followed by a picture of the entire village.
  • The next location shown was the capital, Monrovia. It showed the Mesurado River and the west end of the “Old Bridge.” The crime site was highlighted on a map of Monrovia and in an aerial picture of the area. The photographs of Monrovia were related to Charge 4.3. Mr. Massaquoi’s base, a building used by his troops, was by the river. The Assistant Prosecutor showed an aerial picture of the base and Waterstreet. The Prosecution claimed that Mr. Massaquoi and his troops had patrolled the area close to Waterstreet and that six soldiers were shot there on Mr. Massaquoi’s command.
  • One picture highlighted the building in which the acts relating to Charge 4.2 allegedly occurred. 
  • An aerial picture was shown of Kamatahun Tahamba alongside a map of Liberia. According to the Prosecution and as part of Charge 4.4 (aggravated rape), Mr. Massaquoi is alleged to have found a civilian in the rainforest surrounding Kamatahun Tahamba, who he then brought to Foya and raped.
  • With respect to the forced labor laid out in Charge 4.5.3.2, the Prosecution asserted that these acts were committed in Kortuhun 1, Kortuhun 2, and Vahun (in Lofa County).     

The Prosecution’s overview of the crime sites ended with a list of acts giving rise to the charges and the places where those acts occurred.

State Prosecutor Mr. Tom Laitinen took over the presentation of the case after the overview of the crime scenes, to demonstrate the legal basis of these charges. Mr. Laitinen showed a powerpoint presentation in which the homicides and sexual offenses were illustrated. Mr. Laitinen then listed three articles of Chapter 1 of the Finnish Criminal Code, including Section 6, Section 11 and Section 7. Mr. Laitinen clarified that “aggravated war crimes” and “aggravated violations of human rights in a state of emergency” are international crimes that can be prosecuted in Finland regardless of where they took place.

Mr. Laitinen further clarified that Finnish law has changed since the alleged crimes were committed.  As such, the applicable law is the law that was in effect at that time. 

The crimes were committed in the context of the second Liberian civil war (21 May 1999 – 18 August 2003). Mr. Laitinen noted that, during this period, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) fought side-by-side with Charles Taylor’s troops. According to the Prosecution’s theory, Mr. Massaquoi was one of the authoritative RUF leaders who moved to Liberia and had the capacity to command RUF soldiers.

Charges

4.1-4.4 Murder and Aggravated rape

The Prosecution listed the murder and aggravated rape charges, which included: murders in Kamatahun Hassala village (Lofa County), described in Charge 4.1; the murder of Monjama in Yandohun village (Lofa County), described in Charge 4.2; murders in Monrovia, described in Charge 4.3; and aggravated rapes in Kamahatun Hassala and Foya villages (Lofa County), described in Charge 4.4.

The Prosecution clarified that these murders and rapes all related to the same course of events: civilians sought cover when they saw the RUF troops arriving in their village. They usually escaped. Sometimes, however, the RUF began to search for them; they did not want survivors. Civilians were then burned, and raped.

The murders in Monrovia are alleged by the Prosecution to have occurred during a later stage of war when people had settled in Monrovia. For various reasons, the RUF took civilians to its base, where they were killed. The Prosecution claimed that none of these actions had a purpose, nor was there any   justification. The Prosecution highlighted that civilians must be protected from any violence.

4.5 Aggravated war crimes

The Prosecution listed the “aggravated war crimes” as charged, which included: the murders described in Charges 4.1-4.3; the rapes in Kamatahun Hassala and Foya (Lofa County), and Monrovia; forced labor of civilians in various parts of Lofa County; the use of child soldiers to participate in hostilities in Monrovia; the mutilation or maltreatment of the remains of the dead in Kamahatun Hassala (Lofa County); torture in Klays; and aggravated assault in Monrovia and assault in Kamahatun Hassala (Lofa County).

4.6 Aggravated violations of human rights in a state of emergency

The Prosecution then noted that the charge of “aggravated human rights violations in a state of  emergency” related to each of the other charges. 

The Prosecution explained that there generally are no plaintiffs in trials relating to “aggravated war crimes” or “aggravated violations of human rights in a state of emergency,” as these provisions do not exist per se to protect individuals. If the rights of an individual have been violated, however, that individual may have the position of plaintiff.

Mr. Laitinen addressed the challenges regarding this case, which include: the length of time between the commission of the crimes and the present prosecution; cultural and societal differences; long-lasting traumatizing experiences; and the clear need to review credibility on an individual level. Mr. Laitinen stressed that overall assessment of individuals and evidence is required, adding that it is difficult to remember the details of events that happened ten or fifteen years ago, even for him. 

The hearing broke at 11:45, to resume at 13:00.

[Break]

The afternoon session began with opening statements from the Defense team, Mr. Kaarle Gummerus, assisted by Ms. Paula Sallinen. The Defense team stated its intention to demonstrate that Mr. Massaquoi was not in Liberia during the actions described in the charges. Instead, the Defense stated that Mr. Massaquoi was in Sierra Leone when the charged acts took place. Using a powerpoint presentation, the Defense laid out the following: 

  • In 2000, Mr. Massaquoi worked in Freetown (Sierra Leone), at Mr. Foday Sankoh’s residence, and also accompanied Mr. Sankoh to South Africa and Ivory Coast in February 2000. The RUF took UN peacekeepers as hostages in April 2000. There was a gunfight at Mr. Sankoh’s residence on 8 May 2000 and Mr. Massaquoi escaped to Maken. 
  • In 2001, Mr. Massaquoi was involved in the peace negotiations in Sierra Leone as part of the UN’s special mission starting in January 2001 until the end of that year. Mr. Massaquoi only visited Monrovia in February. The reason for this trip was to collect property he had left behind in Liberia, such as his car. In May, Mr. Massaquoi participated in a meeting in Nigeria.
  • In 2002, Mr. Massaquoi lost favor with the RUF leadership and was removed from his position as the group’s spokesperson. Former RUF soldiers attacked Mr. Massaquoi in March 2002, robbing him and vandalizing his car. Separately, Mr. Massaquoi was granted immunity for providing evidence to the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
  • In 2005 Mr. Massaquoi testified before the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Mr. Gummerus stated that Civitas Maxima and its Liberian sister organization the GJRP are in the background of this case, noting that Finnish police asked the NGOs for potential witnesses before their mission to Africa in March-April 2020. He asserted that this diminishes the credibility of those witnesses. Further, the Defense expressed its astonishment that this case was pursued at all, as the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Liberia includes no mention of “Gibril Massaquoi,” “Angel Gabriel,” “Angel,” “Gibril,” or “Gabriel.”

The Defense acknowledged that, in the photographic material the police provided, one individual with the name “Massaquoi” is listed as being relevant to events occurring in July 2003, but stated that Mr. Massaquoi was in a safehouse during that time.

In addition, the report only names “Junior Massaquoi,” “John Massaquoi,” “Mohammed Massaquoi,” “Roland Massaquoi,” and “x Massaquoi.”

The Defense articulated that there were central changes in the witness statements, which he claims may be a result of the large number of relevant news reports. The Defense also stated that this could be a consequence of bringing up the name, “Angel Gabriel.” 

Mr. Gummerus concluded the Defense presentation by noting that it provided vast written evidence and information about the witnesses as counter-evidence. The Defense relied on UN documentation, various media sources, and the reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions for both Sierra Leone and Liberia. Moreover, the Defense claimed that Mr. Massaquoi’s witnesses are people who were very familiar with Mr. Massaquoi, his actions, and/or the actions of the RUF. In support of this contention,  Mr. Gummerus showed an excel table listing all the witnesses, categorizing how the witnesses were involved in the pretrial investigation. 

The hearing concluded at 13:50, and was scheduled to resume on 5 February 2021 at 10:00.

Leave a Reply