05/04/21 [Liberia] Day 25: The Hearing of Witnesses 48 and 49
Witness 48 is heard
(Finnish Witness ID: Soldier 39)
The Defense questions Witness 48
The Witness began by explaining that during the Second Liberian Civil War he was assigned to Vahun, near the border with Sierra Leone, from December 1999 until 2002 where he served for the “Special Presidential Guard”. He left his post at the end of 2002 because he got wounded, and after going to Monrovia for medical treatment, he returned to Vahun for business.
When asked if he knew JP Koroma, the Witness responded that he was one of the militia officers “on that side”, and that he heard about his death through his officer, and it was “between him and the friendly forces and it had something to do about his girlfriend”. The Witness tentatively said that this occurred in 2001, and that at the time there were a lot of RUF commandos there. Witness 48 said that amongst many others, Angel Gabriel and Superman were there. The Defense asked him if he knew who was responsible for Koroma’s death, and the Witness responded that “the name I got” was Gen. Sheriff, who used different names when he went to the frontlines. He continued by adding that Angel Gabriel’s real name was Sheriff Massaquoi, and that he caused Koroma’s death: according to the Witness, he ordered his men to arrest Koroma, and if he resisted, they should shoot on sight. This happened between Masambolahun and Popalahun. He was told this by his officer, [FNM-152], who, meanwhile, had passed away. The Defense pointed out that from his understanding of the pre-trial investigation, the Witness had told the officers that he had been present. Witness 48 responded that he had told the officers he was in Vahun.
The Defense asked clarifying questions on Koroma: the Witness answered that he was “Mandingo, and Mandingos are from Guinea”. He added that they had met on the field, and that Koroma came from the LURD.
The Prosecution questions Witness 48
The Prosecution asked the Witness if he knew what town “this Angel Gabriel Massaquoi” was in; Witness 48 responded that he was in Folima, a bordering town near Vahun. The Prosecution asked if the Witness had been in Kamatahun at the same time as Angel Gabriel, and he responded affirmatively, as that was his assignment area, and would stop there on his way to Popalahun. He continued by saying that what they had seen Angel Gabriel do in Kamatahun had “shocked us”. When prompted, he explained that there used to be a house where refugees from different places, including children, stayed at. They found out that the children were officers’ dependents, and Angel Gabriel ordered his men to get rid of them; they started “shooting rampantly”. The Witness further explained how he had given the order because “he was perceiving everybody to be enemy”. The Witness was in Yandohun when this occurred, he was told by [FNM-152] that Angel Gabriel, “Invisible Man”, gave the order. This happened in 2000.
The Prosecution asked the Witness how did [FNM-152] get the information on Koroma; he responded that [FNM-152] had been in town at the time. He added that this took place in 2001.
The Prosecution asked the Witness if he had seen Angel Gabriel in Monrovia. The Witness responded that between the end of 2002 and 2003, he had seen him himself with Benjamin Yeaten. He was no longer Angel Gabriel, but Sheriff. They were staying at 12 Houses, and Witness 48 had also seen him in Yeaten’s yard, and in Alhaji G. V. Kromah’s compound. He added that Sheriff was assigned to Yeaten, had his own officers, a pickup truck, and armed groups with him. The Witness explained that when he went to Monrovia, he worked as a supply officer; Commander 50 gave the Witness supplies, and he would bring them to “where they stayed”. He added that Angel Gabriel was controlling the “boys from Sierra Leone”. The last time he saw Angel Gabriel was 2000, in Monrovia, when LURD was around. Angel Gabriel spoke Krio.
The Defense questions Witness 48 further
The Witness explained that when Massaquoi was in Monrovia, they would always supply them on behalf of Benjamin Yeaten. He was aware that Massaquoi was one of the receivers. The Defense pointed out that in the police summary, when they asked him if he had seen Massaquoi in Monrovia, the Witness had said that he had but “by accident, at the beginning of 2003 ” when there was a war against LURD and MODEL.
When asked if Massaquoi participated in the fighting, and if so, if it was in Waterside; the Witness answered in the affirmative. The Defense enquired if he remembered what he had told the police about this; the Witness answered that he had said he saw Massaquoi in Waterside, on a BZT. The Defense noted that he had said that he saw him, but that he was not fighting. Witness 48 explained that he could not give all of the details during the interview, so he was doing so during the hearing.
At Waterside, there was a large group of soldiers headed by Benjamin Yeaten. Sierra Leoneans were there, and their leader was [FNM-159]. He had told the police that the Sierra Leoneans had “small units”, and that he had not seen Massaquoi there, but he was with Benjamin Yeaten under the E.J. Royce building; the Witness was there and saw him. The Defense pointed out that in the police summary, the Witness stated that Massaquoi was not there. The Prosecution interjected, and asked for the recording to be played before the Witness commented on that.
In the recording, the police are heard questioning the Witness on whether he saw Massaquoi “in the building”; Witness 48 that he was “nowhere around”. All the actions he witnessed from Massaquoi took place in Sierra Leone and Lofa.
The Defense then questioned the Witness about JP Koroma, noting that the Witness referred to him as Guinean in the court but as Sierra Leonean in the police interview. The Witness attributed this to the fact that him and Koroma “only met in the field”. The Defense drew attention to the discrepancies in the statements made by the Witness – to the police and to the court – regarding his presence when Koroma died. Witness 48 explained that he was in Lofa County at the time, in Vahun, but not on the location where Koroma was killed. He added that he heard what happened from an officer who was assigned there. The Defense pressed the Witness on this matter, suggesting he had led the police to believe he was present when Koroma was killed. The court then played the recording of the police interview, after which Witness 48 acknowledged that his interview made it sound as though he was present. According to the Witness, he was not present when Koroma was killed but he was present in Yandohun when the order for Koroma’s arrest was given. The Witness specified that Massaquoi gave the order.
At that point, the Prosecution wanted some clarification regarding the E. J. Roye building and the role of Massaquoi. The Witness explained that Massaquoi was close to the building with Benjamin Yeaten but “did not go with the weapon”.
The Defense noted that the Witness had stated seeing Massaquoi with his BZT, to which the Witness replied that “as an officer [Massaquoi] had access to any of those weapons”. Upon the Defense’s insistence, Witness 48 reiterated that Massaquoi was there at the E. J. Roye building but was not “carrying a gun”.
According to the Witness, the war in Waterside occured “at the end of 2002 to the beginning of 2003”, specifying that the war was “tense”. The Defense noted some inconsistency with a previous statement where the Witness recalled seeing Massaquoi at the start of 2003 and that the war “was not much going on”.
After some discussion between the Defense and the Prosecution, the former asked two final questions to the Witness. The Defense wanted to know when – in the Witness’s opinion – the war in Waterside was and when the last fight involving the LURD happened in Monrovia. The Witness found it difficult to recall because they were not thinking of these things, but he knows the war ended in 2003 under UNSCR 1509.
The Judges asked the Witness about his military rank and whether he had any war names. The Witness replied that he was a planning and training officer and that he did not have a war name.
Witness 49 is heard
(Finnish Witness’ ID: Soldier 22)
The Defense questions Witness 49
The Defense began its questioning with the Second Liberian Civil War. The Witness explained that he served as a soldier for the NPFL; he fought between 1991 and 2003, and that he used to be called a “Small Captain”. He added that at that time they formed “militias with the Small Boys Unit” (SBU). Witness 49 had many commanders, among which he named [FNM-168], commander in Lofa, Roland Duo, commander for the Navy Division, and Benjamin Yeaten, also known as “Chief 50”.
When asked by the Defense whether he knew anything about the death of Johnny Paul Koroma, the Witness said that in Lofa, they heard people saying that Koroma was arrested by Angel Gabriel. He then heard the execution. The Defense reminded the Witness that he had previously stated to the police that he had seen the body, but Witness 49 responded that it was a “oversight“. He further added that “You know they will not just keep that kind of body for people to be seeing it.”
The Witness recalled that someone higher up was angry with the killing. He repeated that he did not see the body, but that he remembered there was some order by former President Taylor, that Benjamin Yeaten was discussing that day. He couldn’t recall what they were saying, but he remembers they discussed the issue.
He clarified that Angel Gabriel was like a spokesman for his group, and that the Witness believed he was “one of the sound guys among those men”. Witness 49 also stated that he didn’t recall Angel Gabriel’s full name.
The Witness then explained that he was in Monrovia in 2003, and that he left in exile that same year.
The Prosecution questions Witness 49
The Prosecution began by asking clarification questions about “Angel Gabriel”. Witness 49 clarified that Angel Gabriel was a deputy to Sam Bockarie and that he had a lot of authority. When asked about the “atrocities” Angel Gabriel committed, the Witness specified that it happened in Lofa but could not recall the name of the location where the event took place.
The Witness subsequently gave an explanation for the name “Angel Gabriel”, saying that if Angel Gabriel passed by you and “you were safe, you would be joyful and put your hands in the air that Angel spared you today”.
Witness 49 testified that he himself witnessed atrocities committed by “Angel Gabriel”. The Witness described one occasion somewhere in the vicinity of Masambolahun and Kololahun – he was not sure of the specific town’s name – in 2001. NPFL and RUF were fighting together and patrolling the border with Guinea to prevent the eventuality of LURD forces coming into Liberia. While on patrol, the Witness and others met Angel Gabriel. He had tied up some men in town and he had a pickup. Angel Gabriel said the people “were giving the enemy some support”. One of the generals who was in charge of the frontline, [Soldier 07], asked Angel Gabriel who the people that were tied up were. Angel Gabriel told him not to mind those people, and that “[he was] going to execute them” because they were “enemies”. [Soldier 07] told Angel Gabriel that he could take care of his prisoners of war, and decided that his soldiers, including the Witness, would leave. When they returned, they only saw bodies. The Witness believed there were six or seven bodies in total, and noted that he got out of the car to check the bodies. The Witness later specified that the people that were executed were not soldiers, based on his own investigation. The Witness asked some others who the people were, and found out that “they were civilians from Exile”, clarifying that they used “Exile” to refer to Sierra Leone.
When asked by the Prosecution, Witness 49 described Angel Gabriel as a “sound guy” who spoke English. According to the Witness, Angel Gabriel regularly mentioned that he was going “to talk with the BBC”. He noted that he heard Angel Gabriel say he would speak with the BBC shortly after his group of soldiers came to Lofa, “from 1999, 2000-2001”, near Vahun.
The Prosecution enquired about the Finnish police. The Witness recalled that a colleague of his, [FNM-131], a former soldier in Lofa, told him that there were “people from Finland” looking for information about events in Lofa. When asked about [Employee 1], Witness 49 replied that he saw him when he met the Finnish police the first time. He added that he never spoke with [Employee 1], only with [FNM-131].
Asked whether he remembered Angel Gabriel’s full name, the Witness estimated that it was “some kind of Dugbeh Washington”. He offered to call [FNM-131] to get the name right, but the Prosecution declined.
The Defense questions Witness 49 further
Witness 49 further stated RUF came from Sierra Leone with Angel Gabriel in 1999.
The Prosecution questions Witness 49 further
The Prosecution wanted some clarifications regarding Angel Gabriel’s role inside of RUF. The Witness explained that Angel Gabriel was “like a spokesman”. The Prosecution noted that Witness 49 said to the Finnish police that Angel Gabriel was the spokesman. However, in court, the Witness said he was not sure if Angel Gabriel was the official spokesman, but he certainly acted as though he were. Witness 49 added that Angel Gabriel was within the initial structure of the RUF when they came to Liberia. The Witness said that Angel Gabriel had a full name, and then stated the name clicked based on something the Prosecution just said. The Prosecution noted that the police had written down “Gibril Massaquoi”, and the Witness said that was the name. He clarified that he would have to go home to check his “file” to be sure of the name, but that Angel Gabriel’s full name had some kind of “Massaquoi” in it. The Witness indicated he had written notes in his personal diary, which he uses to keep track of important things in his life. Witness 49 specified that his diary is posterior to the war and that he didn’t keep a daily record of the war.
At that point, the Defense intervened to ask the Witness what happened after Koroma was killed. The Witness indicated that Charles Taylor transferred the troops to go to Bomi Hills and that he believed Angel Gabriel came with them. When asked, he recalled the RUF first arrived in Liberia from Sierra Leone in 1999. Witness 49 didn’t know if RUF stayed in Lofa the entire time, from 1999 until their transfer to the Bomi Hills.
The testimony concluded