12/02/21 [Finland] Day 6: Mr. Massaquoi is Heard (continued)
The sixth day of public hearings opened with the Judge stating that the hearing was to continue from where it had left off the previous day.
Relationship with the Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2002
The Defense, led by Mr. Gummerus, began by questioning the Accused, Mr. Massaquoi, about his whereabouts in August 2002. Mr. Massaquoi responded that on 14 August, 2002, he attended a meeting with people working for the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL): Corinne Dufka, Alan White, and David Crane. Mr. Massaquoi added that he met with these people every couple of days during August 2002, and that such gatherings included unofficial meetings and drinking.
Next, the Defense questioned Mr. Massaquoi about the date on which he was approached to testify for the SCSL and why he required immunity. Mr. Massaquoi replied that he signed the witness protection document in October 2002, and that he needed immunity both for his role as a combatant and his role as a diamond transporter for the RUF. Mr. Massaquoi claimed that because there was a possibility that all RUF members could be arrested, his role as an insider increased his need for protection. Finally, Mr. Massaquoi said that he required protection for himself and his family because of concerns for their security. He noted that he had already been attacked at his safe house.
The Defense continued its line of questioning by asking Mr. Massaquoi about statements made to the SCSL in late 2002 and about the significance of some of the dates mentioned in the statements. Mr. Massaquoi stated that there was an unrecorded general statement, along with additional statements made at various stages. Mr. Massaquoi also indicated that, on several occasions, he spoke with the SCSL team on the phone to arrange meetings with them. Mr. Massaquoi clarified that the dates in the statements are not necessarily indicative of when the statement was given, but rather of the date on which he handed the statement over to the SCSL.
Return to Freetown, Sierra Leone in 2003
The Defense then proceeded to ask him about 2003, opening with a question about 9 March. Mr. Massaquoi recounted that on that day, he was driving to Freetown and was stopped by Issa Sesay on the road. Mr. Sesay told him that a court had been set up in Freetown and Mr. Sesay and others needed to escape Sierra Leone. Mr. Massaquoi recalled that he had been in possession of money from the [RUFP] Party House, and Issa Sesay and others needed this money for their escape. Mr. Massaquoi said that he and Mr. Sesay agreed to go and meet with President Charles Taylor. Mr. Massaquoi stated that he then contacted the SCSL’s Investigation Team, which agreed to meet the following morning. Mr. Massaquoi additionally noted that the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) for the SCSL did not know who had tipped people off about the start of the trial. Mr. Massaquoi explained that RUF members had heard rumors that the SCSL would be starting trials soon and they were anxious to escape the country. Mr. Massaquoi concluded by stating that he told the OTP when the meeting with President Charles Taylor would be. Based on this information the OTP came to the meeting and arrested everyone. The OTP accused those present at the meeting of taking part in war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Freetown safe house
Following the line of questions related to Freetown, the Defense asked Mr. Massaquoi about the circumstances of his safe house and to describe the safe house’s surroundings. Mr. Massaquoi testified that he met a man from the Witnesses and Victims Support Unit in Freetown’s Kissy neighborhood at around 23:00, after which he was taken to the safe house. Mr. Massaquoi noted that he was unfamiliar with the Pipeline area of Freetown, where the house was located. Mr. Massaquoi added that the safe house was constantly guarded by two security guards, no one was allowed to leave for months, and there was a tunnel for escape. Mr. Massaquoi concluded that the only other people in the safe house were his family and half-brother.
Fame and hiding
The Defense questioned Mr. Massaquoi about the impact of the witness protection agreement, and whether it restricted Mr. Massaquoi’s future activities. Mr. Massaquoi replied that it was clear that if he were to commit any war crimes in Sierra Leone or another country, he could be accused of them.
The Defense turned to a series of questions about Mr. Massaquoi’s level of fame during the 1990s and early 2000s. Mr. Massaquoi explained that he was not well-known in the 1990s, during his time as an activist and teacher. Mr. Massaquoi testified that in the 2000s, however, an increase in his media presence led to both his name and face being well-recognized in Sierra Leone. Mr. Massaquoi indicated that he was not sure how well-known he was in Liberia at the time, but that Liberian officials and some security people seemed to know him. He said he was well-known in Liberia because of his frequent press releases.
Mr. Massaquoi further elaborated that he gave interviews to the Liberian media through his satellite phone at various locations throughout Sierra Leone. Mr. Massaquoi noted that he received his first satellite phone – the size of a laptop – from President Charles Taylor, along with instructions as to how to avoid having the call traced. According to Mr. Massaquoi, he was instructed to press an orange button prior to answering a call so that he could hide his physical location. In the beginning of 2000, Mr. Massaquoi obtained his own satellite phone. Mr. Massaquoi says that he only ever hid his location on one call, during a BBC interview. He noted that, in other calls, people demanded he reveal his location, even asking what the weather was like to ensure he was telling the truth.
The Defense asked Mr. Massaquoi whether he had personally witnessed violence in Liberia to which Mr. Massaquoi responded “no,” and noted that he was treated “as a diplomat’’ when in Liberia. He said he had never witnessed any violence in Lofa County, Liberia.
Vantaa Prison Note
Mr. Gummerus recalled that the Prosecution had raised the issue of the note in Mr. Massaquoi’s handwriting that had been found in Vantaa Prison by the cleaning staff. The Defense asked Mr. Massaquoi about the motivation behind writing the note for his family. [Other discussion of the Vantaa Prison note is available under the “04/02/21 [Finland] Day 2: Introducing the Case” daily summary.] Mr. Massaquoi contended that the note was not written to influence witnesses, emphasizing that all information contained within the note was public and that the note simply served as a reminder to the witnesses about how events took place twenty years ago.
Moreover, Mr. Massaquoi explained that he had written the note because he felt that the police did not believe his testimony but instead believed the witnesses questioned in Lofa.
Prosecution begins with questions about knowledge and responsibility
After the Defense finished, the trial turned to the Prosecution’s questions. Mr. Laitinen, for the Prosecution, asked if there was war in Liberia between 1999-2003. Mr. Massaquoi stated that he was aware that there was war in some parts of Liberia, especially in Lofa near the border of Guinea. When asked about the perpetrators of the attacks, Mr. Massaquoi stated that he believed the attacks in Lofa County were launched from Guinea by an RUF army commander named Sam Bockarie (whom he identified using Mr. Bockarie’s alias, “Mosquito Spray”).
The Prosecutor asked Mr. Massaquoi to elaborate on visits to Liberia in 2000 and 2001. Mr. Massaquoi confirmed that he was in Monrovia and travelled through parts of Lofa where there was no conflict. He explained that he was at times unable to travel to southern Liberia because after the 1997 presidential election, the border between Liberia and Sierra Leone was occupied by government troops. It was impossible for the RUF to cross. When asked how he knew about the situation at the border, Mr. Massaquoi says he read about attacks committed by Mr. Bockarie between 1999 and 2001 “from Guinea to Lofa” when he was in prison.
The Prosecutor then asked Mr. Massaquoi whether he had heard about attacks in 2002 from the BBC, also asking him to clarify the RUF’s connection to the attacks. Mr. Massaquoi responded that he had also heard about the 2002 attacks from the news and that he was a spokesperson of the RUF at the time of the attacks, in 2002 and 2003. Additionally, Mr. Massaquoi stated that Mr. Bockarie had escaped to Liberia with his family in December 1999.
When asked about his position within the RUF at the time, Mr. Massaquoi explained that he was the group’s spokesperson and head of its peace delegation. When asked by the Prosecution whether he had been informed about these attacks, Mr. Massaquoi said that in this capacity, he was not responsible for RUF troops or for knowing about these attacks.
The Prosecution then asked if he was nonetheless responsible for asking questions about the troops. Mr. Massaquoi responded by saying that he was never interviewed about the RUF’s fights in Lofa County, as the RUF only operated in Sierra Leone and focused on supporting the Liberian government. Mr. Massaquoi explained that the RUF was helping the Liberian government regain control of Lofa from the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel group.
The Prosecution raised Mr. Massaquoi’s earlier mention of running into RUF troops en route to Lofa County, asking if those RUF troops had informed him of the situation in Liberia. Mr. Massaquoi said no, they had not. He was not a commander and so the RUF soldiers had no reason to report these things to him.
Following this, the Prosecutor asked Mr. Massaquoi why he was chosen to represent the RUF during peace negotiations if he was insignificant within the RUF and his knowledge about the conflict situation was so limited. Mr. Massaquoi explained that he was primarily involved with the political side of the RUF, with little involvement in the military structure. He explained he received information from RUF executives, not commanders. According to Mr. Massaquoi, he was chosen by the RUF to take part in peace negotiations due to his experience in peace negotiations. The Prosecution asked if the political and military arms of the RUF communicated with each other at all, to which Mr. Massaquoi confirmed that they were.
The morning session ended at 11:45.
The afternoon session started at 13:30.
As the hearing resumed, the Prosecution continued questioning Mr. Massaquoi. Mr. Laitinen sought to clarify Mr. Massaquoi’s intentions in writing the notes found in Vantaa prison. Mr. Massaquoi replied that his only intention was to remind people that their memory may not be perfect, especially after twenty years.
Addressing inconsistencies: The death of Superman
The Prosecution then asked Mr. Massaquoi when he heard that Superman (Mr. Dennis Mingo) was dead. Mr. Massaquoi said that he found out in June 2001. Mr. Laitinen then asked whether Mr. Massaquoi remembered how he answered the same question during earlier investigations. Mr. Massaquoi stated he did not remember. Mr. Laitinen then noted that Mr. Massaquoi said on page one of the prior [SCSL?] investigation summary that he learned of Superman’s death between July and October. Mr. Massaquoi stated that if the date was anything other than June 2001, there was probably a mistake.
The Prosecution then asked if Mr. Massaquoi had seen Superman’s body, to which he replied “no.” Mr. Laitinen then showed Mr. Massaquoi part of the prior investigation summary in which he said he had gone to where Superman was said to have died and had seen his body. The Prosecution asked whether Mr. Massaquoi remembered this conversation. Mr. Massaquoi said that he remembered it, but that his security person had told him. Mr. Laitinen asked to invoke this as written evidence, which the judge approved.
Addressing inconsistencies: Mr. Massaquoi’s role with the RUF
The Prosecution moved his line of questioning to the time period in which Mr. Massaquoi had fought for the RUF, noting inconsistencies in what Mr. Massaquoi had said in yesterday’s hearings compared to what he had said during the investigation. Specifically, the Prosecution noted that yesterday, Mr. Massaquoi said he fought with the RUF from 1993 to 1994, whereas in the investigation, he had stated that he fought with the RUF between 1992 and 1996. Mr. Massaquoi clarified that there was not really a difference and that he had actually been fighting in 1993 and 1994.
Mr. Laitinen went on to ask him why he was called “commander” even after his role as a combatant in the RUF ceased. Mr. Massaquoi stated that because he was an RUF Lieutenant Colonel, many people still referred to him using his military rank even though he was a spokesman. This, Mr. Massaquoi explained, was due to the culture of the group.
The Prosecution asked whether Mr. Massaquoi was the leader of the delegations that had previously been discussed, and Mr. Massaquoi confirmed he usually was.
Addressing inconsistencies: Locations and modes of travel
Mr. Laitinen then shifted the questioning back to several villages Mr. Massaquoi mentioned yesterday. The Prosecution noted that, yesterday, Mr. Massaquoi had indicated that there were certain villages he could not remember that were along his routes when he traveled throughout the region. The Prosecution recalled that Mr. Massaquoi had mentioned an airstrip in Foya and asked whether Mr. Massaquoi remembered this airstrip or the villages Kamatahun Hassala and Yandehun. Mr. Massaquoi responded that he did not recall these places.
Mr. Laitinen referred again to yesterday’s hearing, in which Mr. Massaquoi stated he often went by car from Sierra Leone to Foya, Liberia, and from there by helicopter. Mr. Massaquoi recalled having flown from Monrovia to Foya, then taking a car from there to Sierra Leone. He recalled that the trip was usually a mixture of flights and car journeys. Mr. Laitinen then referenced the pretrial record, where Mr. Massaquoi had said that he always traveled by car. Mr. Massaquoi responded that was not true and stated that if the report said “always,” then it meant “often” or “frequently.”
Mr. Laitinen then asked Mr. Massaquoi if he recalled the village Kailahun. Mr. Massaquoi noted that he only knew a Kailahun in Sierra Leone but not in Liberia.
Addressing Inconsistencies: Meetings, diamond transportation, and Mr. Massaquoi’s car
The next line of questions focused on Mr. Benjamin Yeaten, Mr. Joseph “ZigZag” Marzah, and Sam “Mosquito” Bockarie, and inconsistencies between Mr. Massaquoi’s statements during this trial and statements he gave in earlier investigations. Mr. Massaquoi said he believes he remembers meeting them. Mr. Laitinen asked Mr. Massaquoi if he remembered his comments in earlier investigations regarding meeting Mr. Marzah. Mr. Laitinen produced these comments, in which Mr. Massaquoi said he never met Mr. Marzah.
Mr. Laitinen continued this line of questioning, referencing Mr. Massaquoi’s book, The Secret Behind the Gun. The Prosecution pointed to a passage in which Mr. Massaquoi mentioned a discussion with Mr. Marzah. Mr. Massaquoi said that he may have met Mr. Marzah but could not remember.
Mr. Laitinen then asked Mr. Massaquoi about his compensation for the transportation of diamonds for the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor. Mr. Massaquoi recalled that diamonds were brought to Mr. Taylor but did not remember receiving anything for his role in their transportation. He also stated he was aware Mr. Taylor supported the RUF.
Mr. Laitinen turned to Mr. Massaquoi’s earlier explanation that he returned to Monrovia to pick up his car, first asking why Mr. Massaquoi had a car in Monrovia. Mr. Massaquoi noted he was given the car due to his role in the RUF’s various delegations and did not actually own it. He also remembered being given the car around the end of June. Mr. Laitinen then questioned why Mr. Massaquoi specifically recalled the date being 28 June in the previous hearing. Mr. Massaquoi stated that it was an estimate based on the day he had left Monrovia and that his memory was not clear since it happened a long time ago.
Addressing Inconsistencies: Mr. Massaquoi’s satellite phone and his location
The Prosecution then asked Mr. Massaquoi about his satellite phone, noting that Mr. Massaquoi had received it from Mr. Taylor and that it had an orange button which could be used to conceal location data during calls. The Prosecution asked whether Mr. Massaquoi had previously told a journalist that he was in Makeni when he was not. Mr. Massaquoi responded that he had done this once because he was specifically instructed by Mr. Taylor to do so. Mr. Taylor had explained that he wanted to distance himself from the RUF.
Mr. Laitinen turned back to Mr. Massaquoi’s book, asking whether Mr. Massaquoi recalled what he had written about hiding his location data when making calls with the satellite phone. Mr. Massaquoi did not, instead noting a conversation he recalled writing about in which Mr. Sesay called him back to Sierra Leone. Mr. Laitinen closed the day by displaying a part of the book in which Mr. Massaquoi wrote that on several occasions, he had said he was in Makeni (Sierra Leone), while actually being in Monrovia.
The hearing ended at 14:30 and continues next week in Monrovia.