03/02/21 [Finland] Day 1: the Charges Are Read

The first day of public hearings in the trial of Mr. Gibril Massaquoi began at the Pirkanmaa District Court in Tampere, Finland on 3 February 2021, with District Judge Paiho (Chair) noting that, in the preparatory hearing, it was decided that a judicial examination of the case shall be arranged in Liberia, and that the details of this examination would be determined at a later date.

Following this, State Prosecutor Mr. Tom Laitinen proceeded to read aloud details of the charges from the annex to the Application of Summons (indictment).

State Prosecutor Laitinen stated that the Prosecution is seeking a sentence of life imprisonment for Mr. Massaquoi for the following four charges.

I. Murders, including of multiple civilians, including children, in Kamatahun Hassala village, Lofa County, Liberia; the murder of a woman in Yandehun village, Lofa County, Liberia; and murders of multiple civilians and suspected enemy fighters in Monrovia, Liberia;

II. Aggravated rapes against multiple civilians in Kamatahun Hassala and Foya villages, Lofa County, Liberia;

III, Aggravated war crimes in Hassala, Yandehun, Foya and Klay villages and their surroundings, Kamatahun, Lofa District, Liberia; and in Monrovia, Liberia. The underlying acts include murders, rapes, forced labor, the use of child soldiers in hostilities, infringement on the dignity of deceased persons and improper treatment of bodies, torture, and aggravated assault and assault;

IV. Aggravated violations of human rights in a state of emergency in Kamatahun Hassala and Yandehun villages and their surroundings, Lofa District, Liberia; and Monrovia, Liberia.

The first two charges are based on the Criminal Code of Finland (Chapters 5, 20, and 21), and the crimes are alleged to have occurred probably between June – December 2001.

The second two charges are based on the Criminal Code of Finland (Chapter 11), as well as the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Second Additional Protocol of 1977. Those crimes are alleged to have occurred probably between June 2001 – December 2002.

According to the Prosecution, Mr. Massaquoi’s responsibility is based both on direct and indirect participation.

Mr. Massaquoi denied all charges presented against him. His Defense Attorney, Mr. Kaarle Gummerus, stated that Mr. Massaquoi was not present in Liberia when the crimes allegedly took place. Mr. Gummerus also stated that Mr. Massaquoi did not participate in the acts in question, specifically noting the long period of time between each act. Mr. Gummerus further noted that such serious allegations require very strong evidence. Finally, Mr. Gummerus reiterated that Mr. Massaquoi has not been in Liberia since the summer of 2001. He stated that Mr. Massaquoi does not deny that these atrocities occurred, but denies having played any role in these acts.

The hearing ended at 10:58am and the trial was scheduled to resume at the Pirkanmaa District Court on Thursday, 4 February 2021.

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