29/03/21 [Liberia] Day 22: The Hearing of Witnesses 39, 40, and 41
The twenty-second day of public hearings resumed on 29 March 2021 in Monrovia, Liberia.
Witness 39 is heard
(Finnish Witness ID: Soldier 13)
The Prosecution questions Witness 39
The Witness began by stating that he was a soldier in the Navy Division in Lofa, and that his military rank was a Colonel. He explained that he was assigned to Lofa in February 2001 and transferred to Monrovia the same year LURD forces came from Bomi and attacked Monrovia. He was based in Foya, but they visited other places in Lofa County. During his time there, his commanding officer was Roland Duo. When asked whether there were RUF soldiers in Lofa, the Witness explained that the peacekeepers were moving on RUF in Sierra Leone, and that Gen. Solo asked his troops to move to the border, as he was told RUF was coming. This is where the Witness saw Sam Bockarie, Salami, and the RUF’s spokesperson, later identified as Gen. Massaquoi. He said they had a lot of manpower. The Witness further explained that Gen. Benjamin Yeaten said the RUF men should stay in Lofa, where they stayed 2-3 months.
The Witness mentioned that there was a massacre in a town going towards Vahun near the Sierra Leonean border. The RUF did the killing, and they were arrested by government forces: later on, Yeaten was called from Monrovia. The Witness continued by explaining how after this Sam Bockarie, Salami, Massaquoi, and soldier [FNM-135] were brought to Monrovia by Benjamin Yeaten. In 2001, the LURD forces came from Bomi and attacked Monrovia. According to the Witness, the President told Roland Duo to order men to return to Monrovia to resist the attack by the LURD: this is how the Witness went to Monrovia. He recalled that they fought against the LURD forces from Po River until their ammunition ran out and retreated back to Waterside. Later on in the testimony, he clarified that they were based in Waterside as Via Town was under the control of the LURD.
The Prosecution then turned back to the events in Foya. The Witness stated that General Massaquoi introduced himself as the spokesperson for RUF, and that he would call and say that he wanted to talk to the BBC. He stated that he saw Massaquoi himself, and that they met several times in Foya and Vahun to “discuss and plan”. The RUF used to come assist government forces, but there were killings that caused conflict between the groups. After the massacre, they brought Bockarie, Salami, and Massaquoi to Monrovia – this was before the Witness was called there himself. The Witness gave further details about the massacre and stated that a lot of civilians were killed by the RUF in Konia, a small town near the border of Guinea. The Witness stated that the commanders were Massaquoi, who was the “all over head” Johnny Paul Koroma, who was the head of state at the time, before the peacekeepers made him retreat to Liberia, and Sam Bockarie who was the field commander.
The Prosecution began asking clarifying questions about the RUF in Monrovia. The Witness explained that they were located near Elwa Junction. He noted that he saw Salami and Massaquoi in Waterside but did not see Sam Bockarie there. The Witness said that Salami was killed near the same area in Via Town. He stopped seeing ‘Gubeh’ Massaquoi after a massacre that occurred in a shop one evening. During those times, civilians would loot stores, and so Salami and Massaquoi’s forces went and killed them. Later on in his testimony, he clarified that this massacre occurred one time, and that it was a “real massacre”. When the Prosecution asked whether the Witness had seen Massaquoi there himself, he answered that Massaquoi was always there in West Point and that they had given a pickup truck to Salami from which he could use his “big gun”. The Witness explained that there were several stores which were looted as people were looking for food. He recalled that he still remembers the particular store where the massacre took place. When asked whether he saw civilians get shot, the Witness responded: “They shot civilians! We took the bodies to bury them and then we went to Benjamin Yeaten to complain. If you put a Bible here, I will swear on it!” The Prosecution asked how Yeaten reacted to the complaint, and the Witness responded that he had not seen Massaquoi again after it, and that they took the pickup truck and drove it to the other bridge. The Witness noted that when Massaquoi came from Lofa to Monrovia he stayed for a long time but cannot recall exactly how long.
When asked when the massacre in Waterside took place, the Witness answered that it was in 2001, during the rainy season. He could not recall how many were killed, but estimated that 7 people were wounded and taken to John F. Kennedy Medical Center. The Prosecution asked who gave the order to kill the people, and Witness 39 explained that it was RUF, they came with their pickup and Salami was in the pickup with his gun; however, the Witness was not present when the order was given.
He clarified that ‘Gubeh’ Massaquoi was a spokesperson for RUF, and that RUF troops were based in Lofa for 2-3 months, but still moved around: he reiterated that Yeaten brought them to Monrovia. Witness 39 added that it was Gubeh Massaquoi who ordered Johnny Paul Koroma to be killed, and that it happened the same day the massacre took place. The Prosecution asked whether the Witness saw Massaquoi giving the order, to which he responded “I know the man too good!’’ and further described how Massaquoi wore a black military uniform and had a gun. According to the Witness, the order to kill Johnny Paul Koroma caused tension between the group. He added that Massaquoi spoke Mende and Krio.
The Prosecution proceeded to ask whether the Witness was in a town named Klay during the war. The Witness responded that in 2001 the forces came to Bomi and fought against the LURD all the way to Klay and Po River, but they were not based there.
The Prosecution enquired about the Finnish police. The Witness recalled that he had shown them the places in question in Waterside, and when asked if he had shown the shop where the massacre took place, he answered that when the police went there, people told them about it. He explained that a friend of his told him there were some people that wanted to talk to the Witness. He was then called by [Employee 1] who asked him to come to Monrovia: this is where he talked with the Finnish police, who asked him questions.
The Defense questions Witness 39
The Defense began their line of questioning by asking the Witness how many times the Finnish police interviewed him, to which the Witness replied he had been interviewed twice. He stated that he did not discuss the content of the interviews with anyone. The Defense asked whether he remembered what he had said about Massaquoi’s position during the interview, and the Witness stated that he told them that he was the spokesperson for RUF. The Defense pointed out that he had used the phrase “Chief of Operations” during the interview. The Witness refuted this, and claimed he had said “spokesman”. The Defense responded by stating that he had used the term spokesman, and in the recording the Witness also stated that he had spoken to his brother, who corrected him and told him to use spokesman. Witness 39 responded that none of his brothers knew that he was doing this. The Court played the recording in question.
In the recording, the Witness describes Massaquoi as a spokesman. The police pointed out that in the previous interview, he had told them that Massaquoi was the Chief of Staff. The Witness responded that he had made a mistake, and that someone had reminded him that Gubeh was spokesman: “Was it not Gubeh that used to go to Sierra Leone, Nigeria and other places for peace talks?”
The Defense enquired about the person that the Witness was referring to during the recording, and he answered that it was another person who was interviewed by the police, [FNM-097]. They were both from Lofa, but they had talked in Monrovia. Between the two interviews, the Witness had not returned to Lofa. He noted that the other person did not tell him he was interviewed, and that they were just having a conversation. The Defense asked what year he had mentioned to the Finnish police, to which the Witness responded 2001: it was the same year he left Lofa and went to Monrovia.
The Defense noted that in the summary, the Witness had said he was transferred to Charles Taylor’s troops to fight against the ULIMO in Lofa, and he stayed there until 2003, after the events of 2001. The Defense noted that the transcript of the interview stated that Massaquoi killed civilians in Waterside in 2003, but the Witness responded that “I never said 2003, it is false and misleading” The Defense then asked about WW1, WW2, and WW3, and the Witness explained that they occurred in 2001, 2002, and 2003 respectively. The Defense then informed the Witness that they will play a recording where he had stated that the massacre took place in WW3, in 2003. The Witness reiterated that he had not told the police that the massacre happened in 2003.
In the recording, the Witness is heard saying that Salami and Gubeh Massaquoi were killing civilians, and how “we used to get vex and say why y’all killing out people when y’all are not Liberians”. The Witness stated that this occurred in 2003. The Witness explained that in the recording he said 2003 was when Charles Taylor left, and 2001 was when the massacre happened. The Defense wanted to know why the Witness had said 2003 to the police, and the Witness responded “but you know, human brain”. The recording was played once again. The Witness suggested that if “you could listen to that statement, I said from the starting of the war most of the killing was done by Gubeh Massaquoi and Salami during WW3. And how a lot of people were happy when Salami was killed in 2003 by rocket”. The recording was then repeated several times and the Prosecution, Defense and the Judge discussed the recording in Finnish.
The Defense continued their line of questioning and asked whether the Witness remembered Johnny Paul Koroma’s death and if Massaquoi was related to it. The Witness stated that it happened in 2001 when RUF were driven by the peacekeepers from Freetown. He further stated that Benjamin Yeaten came from Monrovia and met RUF, but Johnny Paul Koroma did not want to go to Monrovia, but to Guinea instead. The Witness noted that Koroma was not killed in Foya. The Defense asked whether the Witness was aware that Johnny Paul Koroma was running for election in Sierra Leone in 2002. The Witness responded that he did not know, and added that he did not think they were talking about the same “Koroma”: the one he was referring to was the person who overthrew Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and then fled to Nigeria.
The Defense quoted the summary again, where it said that Koroma was lured from Foya to a town on the border in 2002, and after he was not seen again. Further, the Witness had told the police that he had asked his commander, Zor, about the whereabouts of Koroma, and he had told him that Koroma had been killed by the RUF. The Witness said that this happened in 2001, and that 2002 must have been a mistake – he confirmed that indeed Zor had told him that RUF killed Koroma. He reiterated that he did not know that Koroma was running for president.
The Defense then asked questions about the LURD. The Witness stated that it was the year 2001 when the LURD entered Monrovia, and that they fought them back. He further elaborated that the fighting took place in Duala, Logan Town, Iron Gate and Brewerville on Bomi Highway.
Referring back to the interviews with the Finnish Police, the Defense needed some clarity regarding his discussions with [FNM-096]. The Witness clarified that he did not know [Employee 1], and that it was [FNM-096] who had put him in contact with him. Since then, he had not seen him. The Witness however did meet [FNM-097] in Monrovia.
Witness 40 is heard
(Finnish Witness ID: Soldier 11)
The Prosecution questions Witness 40
After clearing out some inconsistencies with the Witness’s date of birth, the Prosecution began by asking Witness 40’s relationship with the RUF. He explained that the RUF were from Sierra Leone, and that his father was a member, and when the government troops started attacking them, he joined the RUF himself.
Witness 40 was in Lofa County between 2001 and 2003, and then went to Monrovia in 2002-2003 when rebels began attacking the government of Charles Taylor. He remembered an incident that had occurred in Waterside: people were killed by RUF because, according to them, they were looting. The Witness specified that the RUF were burning civilians and that they would shoot them with a grenade machine gun. This had upset the Witness because he was half Liberian. He specified he remembered this took place in 2003 because at the time they had “told Charles Taylor to leave” – this was the reason why the RUF started to kill. He was not sure about the month the incident occurred, it might have been between April and September. At the time, Mosquito was their “big commander” and Rambo was their frontline commander. The Witness then listed other commanders he remembered belonged to the RUF, and specified his regiment.
The Witness was then asked if he knew Benjamin Yeaten; he said Yeaten was “a big man for Liberia’s government” and he had seen him on the border between Sierra Leone and Vahun. He had also seen him in Monrovia, when Yeaten came to Waterside because of the disturbance created by the RUF. Witness 40 recounted how Yeaten was with Salami, and “3 pickups full” of soldiers, including soldier [FNM-109] who had been shooting at civilians at the store.
Asked by the Prosecution, the Witness said that at the time, Gube Massaquoi was spokesman for the RUF. He had seen him, but had never spoken to him because “the big people were on one side and we were on the other side.” The Witness went on to specify that people like Massaquoi, Mosquito, and Superman were “big men”. He had seen Massaquoi two times, in 2001, once in Manamen and then in Tenneh. When he saw him, he had a gun on his side and he had said in Krio “gentlemen, I am going to talk for us. I will still talk for us.” The Witness specified that usually the “big men” did not go to the frontline; however, in Tenneh they attacked civilians and burned the whole town. The Witness noted that Massaquoi “said we should keep killing the people.”
The Witness confirmed the RUF had a unit called the “Death Squad”, led by Salami – he also added that “if they say they want you today, they will make sure they get you today”. The Witness clarified that he did not serve under Massaquoi, nor had he seen him during the war in Monrovia. Later on in the testimony, the Witness specified that Massaquoi was the “general commander” and the spokesman of the RUF; Sam Bockarie was the Witness’s commander. The Witness did not receive direct orders from Massaquoi, but “he gave it to our battle commanders.” The Prosecution pointed out how on the police summary the Witness had said that Massaquoi had led him in “many assignments.” He responded that “we took orders from the big people; we did not do anything different. When they told us to go anywhere, we went there.” The Prosecution asked if Massaquoi was one of the “big guys who gave you orders” – the Witness agreed nonverbally. Further in the testimony, when asked by the Defense, the Witness specified that Massaquoi gave orders to people like Rambo and Superman, and that “he gave order to the staffs and they will bring it down to we the children.”
The Witness recounted how he was 10 years old when he joined the RUF; he had not gone to school as he was a farmer with his father. Witness 40 remembered telling the police that he used to go to a community school when he was living with his mother; he was 8 years old when he started attending. The Prosecution said that according to the police report, he had told them that he started school when he was 6, and he joined the RUF when he was 8. When asked, the Witness said that the police report was more accurate than what he had stated earlier in the testimony.
When asked if he remembered what he had told to the Finnish police about seeing Massaquoi in Monrovia, the Witness replied that he had said that Massaquoi was “big-big people for RUF” when they had burned down Tanneh town in Lofa, and that when “50” came to Waterside, Massaquoi was with him. Witness 40 had also told the police that Massaquoi had given the order to the “Death Squad”; however, the Witness did not hear this himself. Soldier FNM-109 told the Witness that Massaquoi said that whoever they caught in shops should be shot, and by then, he had already done so with two stores. The Witness said that this had hurt some of them “because they killed civilians and they were just lying over each other”. He added that he was right on the scene when the shooting took place. The Witness clarified that even though Salami was the commander of the “Death Squad”, Massaquoi was spokesman of the whole RUF, and therefore he was a “big man” for Salami himself.
The Defense questions Witness 40
The Defense enquired about who did the Witness come to fight against when he relocated from Lofa to Monrovia; the Witness specified that it was the LURD, as they were fighting Charles Taylor.
The Defense then tried to determine whether Michael Highgray and Marcus High Grade were the same person – according to the Witness, it was, and he was one of Charles Taylor government troops and he had heard that this individual was controlling the Waterside area. The Witness had heard that soldier FNM-109, who was part of the Death Squad, had said that civilians were looting, and that is “why he killed them”.
The Defense wondered how Massaquoi could have given the order when the Witness had said in this testimony that he had not seen him in Monrovia. Witness 40 said he had forgotten, but the first thing he had said was that in 2003 Massaquoi had come with “50” to Waterside. He specified that then “was the time that people said Charles Taylor should leave.”
The Witness was then asked about the WWs. He explained that WW1 happened at the end of 2001, WW2 in 2002, WW3 was when Charles Taylor was told to leave, and WW4 was when LURD rebels wanted to arrest the Vice President.
Witness 41 is heard
(Finnish Witness ID: Soldier 15)
The Defense questions Witness 41
The Witness began by explaining that he had joined the ‘revolution’ in 1992, and in 1997, after the election, he joined the government troops in 1997; he was based in Cemenco. Roland Duo who was the chief of staff for the navy division. He remembered the names of other commanders – they had many, because there were 6 battalions. When asked if the name Massaquoi rang a bell, the Witness responded that there were two people by the name Massaquoi: one was battalion commander Mohammed Massaquoi, who had died in Foya between the end of 1999 and 2000. He remarked that the other Massaquoi was Gibril Massaquoi.
The Witness recalled being sent to Foya in 2000 by Chuckie Taylor on a “special mission”: receiving the RUF from Buedu, Sierra Leone, to Komadu. He explained that after WW1 and WW2 he was in Foya when LURD forces attacked Monrovia from Bomi. The Witness stated that the fighting occurred during WW1, from 2001 to 2002 and noted that WW3 occurred during the same year around Duala, Freeport and Vaitown, although he could not remember the precise time. He explained that after the first war the forces retreated to Bomi during the same year, and once again noted that he could not recall the precise time. During WW3 the Witness was on Somalia Drive, when the President called him and his men to go to the Old Bridge in Waterside. He explained that during WW3 he was fighting for the government forces against LURD forces, and that they were sent to erect blockades on the Old Bridge to stop the LURD forces from entering the town. He recalled stores being looted and violence against civilians occurring whilst they were there, and noted that due to cross fire people may have been killed during the night. The Witness explained that some stores in the Water Street area were broken into, and some Sierra Leonean troops were assigned to Yeaten, who was the SS director.
When asked whether he knew who was part of the Sierra Leonean troops, the Witness recalled Salami, who died on Waterside bridge, Gibril Massaquoi, and “Hard Command”. He believed that the fighting ended once the United Nations had arrived after two weeks, and noted that Gibril Massaquoi, Benjamin Yeaten, Hard Command and Salami, were all present at the scene. He concluded by stating that he had last seen Gibril Massaquoi in the E.J. Roye Building after Yeaten had sent for him in 2001. After noting that the E.J. Roye Building was a special base for Yeaten, the Witness stated that he does not recall seeing Massaquoi in Monrovia after 2001, and noted that at the time everyone was very busy so he could not really recall.
The Defense then turned his questioning to an incident where people were killed at the bridge over the Maher River. After noting that the incident occurred on Bomi Road, the Witness explained that after they had captured Bomi from the LURD forces, they gathered civilians together to bring them to a refugee camp near Po River. Once the civilians reached Maher Bridge, Yeaten and the Sierra Leonean soldiers had a checkpoint prepared and upon arriving the soldiers began killing the civilians. He noted that Zigzag Marzah was involved as well, and stated that he was assigned to Yeaten along with the other Sierra Leonean soldiers. The Witness explained that the dead bodies were only kept in two areas, one near the main bridge area going towards LEC General Market, and the other near Water Street.
The questioning was then directed at how the Witness became involved in the process with the Finnish police. He stated that his friend [FNM-133], who was a former soldier and owned a drug store in Waterside, had given his number to them. Whilst in Buchannan around 6-7 months ago, he was called by the Finnish police.
The Prosecution questions Witness 41
The Witness recalled that back then he was not very close with Gibril Massaquoi, and noted that he was more acquainted with Mohammed Massaquoi as they had lived in the same house before. He explained that Mohammed Massaquoi was from Sierra Leone, spoke Mende, and that he had died in Foya whilst they were fighting against LURD forces. He and Mohammed Massaquoi only moved between Foya, Buyedu and Vahun, and the Witness noted that Mohammed Massaquoi would also go fight in villages and towns without him being present; however, they would move together whilst he was in Foya. The Witness recalled that Mohammed Massaquoi used to fight between Guinea and Liberia, particularly in Kpando, Foya, Thingear, and Solomba Biler. The Witness explained that when they were in Sierra Leone, Gibril was higher in rank, but when they entered Foya, Mohammed was the commander of the troops. When asked whether Mohammed Massaquoi would have done anything to civilians in Lofa, the Witness indicated that there were few civilians where they were, but plenty of soldiers. The Witness went on to explain that he did not know of any war names for either Mohammed Massaquoi or Gibril Massaquoi, and noted that he met Gibril through Superman.
The Witness was asked whether he had heard about the “Death Squad”, and he explained that it was a unit which had been formed by the SS director, Benjamin Yeaten, and it was composed by Sierra Leonean forces assigned to Yeaten. Witness 41 named Salami, Gibril Massaquoi, Hard Command, Gola Red, Action and [FNM-134] as soldiers who were a part of the Death Squad. The Witness stated that he had seen the Death Squad with Yeaten near White Flower in Congo Town, and noted that Yeaten’s house was near Charles Taylor’s house. He explained that the Death Squad stayed in one place, as the United Nations were searching for Sam Bockarie at the time. He had seen some members of the Death Squad in Waterside during the night, and the next morning they saw bodies. He recalled three people who had been present that night: High Command, Gibril Massaquoi, and Gola Red. The Death Squad received instructions from Yeaten.
The Witness explained that he spoke with Gibril Massaquoi at the time – he had asked him why there was so much killing, and Gibril Massaquoi replied that the Director had instructed them, stating that “Anyone they see, they should kill.” They did not speak for long because rockets started raining on them. The Witness stated that he did not recall the exact time when he had seen Massaquoi in Waterside, as everyone’s minds were busy during war time. When asked whether he had discussed Salami with Massaquoi, the Witness said that they discussed Salami’s death a week after it occurred, but they never talked about whether the killing that took place was related to the death of Salami. The Witness noted that he had died after the Director had sent him to cross the bridge to Vai Town. Witness 41 added that Massaquoi spoke Krio, he never spoke Mende to him. He concluded by stating that the Death Squad would move around Monrovia in a convoy with Yeaten.
The Defense questions Witness 41 further
The Defense began by asking the Witness if he was aware who was firing rockets at them while he had been talking with Massaquoi. The Witness explained that they were fired by the LURD forces, who were across the bridge in Vai Town, Clara Town, and Duala. When asked where he had seen the bodies, the Witness stated that some of the bodies were in Water Street, whilst others were in the market near LEC. After the Defense asked the Witness if he knew whether Mohammed Massaquoi spoke Krio, the Witness stated that Mohammed Massaquoi spoke both Krio and Mende.
Following this, the Defense noted an inconsistency, as the Witness had stated in the hearing that Mohammed Massaquoi died around 1999-2001, but in his interview with the police he had said that Mohammed Massaquoi died in September 2001 in Foya. The Witness explained that when he was in Foya, the Sierra Leoneans met him there and that’s when Mohammed died.
The Defense noted that the Witness had previously stated that WW1 was the first time LURD had attacked Monrovia through Vai Town, and that Salami was a member of the Death Squad who had been killed by a grenade on the Old Bridge. The Witness replied affirmatively, and added that they had seen the bodies in Waterside prior to Salami’s death. The Defense additionally noted that the Witness had stated that he thought LURD was attacking after he had heard the sound of AK-47, and after going to see what had happened he had seen at least four dead bodies. The Witness replied by stating that at the time the lack of uniforms caused some confusion, as some of the soldiers would simply wear regular clothes, and if you saw them you would assume that they were civilians. The Defense asked the Witness why he had used the term “99 Steps” as the place he saw the bodies, the Witness noted that 99 Steps is the same as Water Street.
The Defense concluded by asking whether the Witness had seen Gibril Massaquoi after seeing these dead bodies. The Witness replied affirmatively, and noted that after the firing had begun in the night, they were not expecting to see bodies.
The hearing concluded and will resume on March 31 in Monrovia, Liberia.