Week in Review: Week 8

Introduction to Week 8’s hearings and witnesses

The eighth week of the Gibril Massaquoi trial ended on 2 April 2021, after three days of hearings in Monrovia, Liberia. Hearings focused on the testimony of nine witnesses. As with prior witnesses, their identities were concealed.

The witnesses were heard in the following order and are described as follows:

Trial Monitoring Day 22 (29 March 2021)

  • Witness 39: Prosecution witness; male; ~26 at the time of the incident; formerly a Liberian Government Navy Division Colonel; identified “General Massaquoi” as the spokesman of the RUF; testified that Massaquoi oversaw a massacre in Waterside; alleged that Massaquoi and the RUF massacred civilians near the Guinean border.
  • Witness 40: Prosecution witness; male; ~16 or ~10 at the time of the incident; former RUF child soldier in the Jungle Fire unit; identified “Gube” Massaquoi as an RUF “big man” who would speak for the RUF; stated Massaquoi spoke Krio; did not see Massaquoi directly perpetrate any crimes but stated that Massaquoi gave orders, including an order to the Death Squad to commit the Waterside massacre.
  • Witness 41: Defense witness; male; age unknown; former soldier in the Liberian Armed Forces; spoke of a massacre at Maher River carried out by Yeaten and his Sierra Leonean soldiers; testified that areas in Monrovia were split between commanders and that Gibril Massaquoi controlled Waterside.

Trial Monitoring Day 23 (31 March 2021)

  • Witness 42: Prosecution & Defense witness; male; ~30 at the time of the incident; ranking member of the Liberian Armed Forces; said Gabriel Massaquoi controlled Waterside; testified about the murder of his bodyguard, Bulldog, and a confrontation during which Massaquoi allegedly killed civilians.
  • Witness 43: Prosecution & Defense witness; male; ~18 at the time of the incident; former soldier under Witness 42; was sent to look for Bulldog’s body, saw Massaquoi killing civilians during his search; said Massaquoi killed his brother; testified that Massaquoi would accuse civilians of looting and then kill them.
  • Witness 44: Prosecution witness; male; age unknown; former soldier under Witness 42; saw Massaquoi detain civilians and soldiers, who he claimed were enemies, at Waterside/99 Steps area; testified he saw other bodies in areas where Massaquoi was in command; stated that Salami and Massaquoi controlled Waterside.

Trial Monitoring Day 24 (2 April 2021)

  • Witness 45: Prosecution & Defense witness; male; ~27 at the time of the incident; former soldier under Witness 42; stated that “Angel Gabriel” was the first commander of the Death Squad; saw Angel Gabriel and his forces shooting civilians in stores at Waterside; heard of BodyMan/Bulldog’s death and went to search for the body, resulting in a confrontation between Witness 42 and Angel Gabriel; said Angel Gabriel and his men killed the town chief and half the town of Kamatahun, by slitting their throats with knives.
  • Witness 46: Prosecution witness; male; age unknown; former soldier in Liberian Armed Forces; stated that Gibril Massaquoi was also known as Angel Gabriel, and that he was a big man and spokesman in the RUF; arrived in Kamatahun after more than six people were burned to death in a kitchen, heard that Massaquoi ordered the burning and the killing of a pregnant woman; said that Massaquoi ordered the killings of civilians for looting at Waterside in 2003.
  • Witness 47: Prosecution & Defense witness; male; ~21 at the time of the incident; former soldier in Liberian Armed Forces; stated that Angel Gabriel was also called Massaquoi, and that he was third in command or spokesman of the RUF; stated that Angel Gabriel arrested civilians in Kamatahun and burnt many in a house; did not personally hear Angel Gabriel order the burning but said it could not have happened without his order; heard women were raped and killed in a blacksmith’s house following Angel Gabriel’s order.

Commonalities in Witness Testimony

The witnesses testified about events in Monrovia and Lofa County between 2000 and 2003. The following commonalities emerged in the witnesses’ descriptions of events and in their interactions with the Finnish police:

Events in Monrovia

  • Incidents at Waterside (murder)
    • Many of the witnesses stated that civilians were massacred in Waterside as reprisal for looting a store. Both civilians and soldiers were allegedly tied up and executed along the nearby river. Witnesses additionally spoke of an event in which one of Witness 42’s bodyguards, Bull Dog, was killed by one of Massaquoi’s men, which nearly resulted in a violent confrontation between Witness 42 and Massaquoi, until Benjamin Yeaten told Witness 42 to stand down.
      • Witness 39 said that “Gubeh” Massaquoi’s forces killed many civilians for looting a number of stores in Waterside. Witness 39 recalled taking the bodies of the civilians to be buried and reporting Massaquoi’s actions to Benjamin Yeaten, after which the Witness did not see Massaquoi again.
      • Witness 40 said the RUF, and specifically the Death Squad, killed civilians for looting in Waterside, following Massaquoi’s orders.
      • Witness 42 went to Waterside to confront Massaquoi for his involvement in the death of Bull Dog. The Witness saw Massaquoi give an order to kill civilians, and when they hesitated, he saw Massaquoi shoot several people himself. 
      • Witness 43 was sent by Witness 42 to search for Bull Dog’s body. He was also ordered to stop Massaquoi from killing civilians, but was unable to, and saw him shoot at civilians with an SMG. 
      • Witness 44 saw at least six people tied up by Massaquoi and his forces in the 99 Steps area. He stated that Massaquoi told him that these people were enemies and that he intended to kill them. Witness 44 passed this information along to Witness 42, who was his commander.
      • Witness 45 stated that Angel Gabriel would kill people who were looting stores. He described another event; after he heard that Bull Dog was killed he went to Waterside, and saw Angel Gabriel executing more than 15 civilians and removing their internal organs. 
  • Witnesses 41 and 42 said that Massaquoi controlled Waterside while he was there. Witness 44 said 99 Steps, an area near Waterside, was controlled by Massaquoi and the Sierra Leoneans. 

Events in Lofa County

  • Burning and Rapes in Kamatahun Hassala 
    • Witness 47 said that, in Kamatahun, Angel Gabriel arrested a number of civilians who he suspected were giving information to “dissident forces.” 
    • Witness 47 saw some of these civilians burnt to death in a house in Kamatahun.
    • Witness 47 testified that a group of women were raped in a blacksmith’s shop, or an attached house, on the same day. The women were killed thereafter. 
    • Though he did not hear Angel Gabriel give the order to burn the civilians, Witness 47 heard from others that Angel Gabriel gave the order. The Witness did recall that Angel Gabriel ordered his soldiers to carry out the rapes, saying “these are your women you take them.”
    • Witness 46 heard that Gibril Massaquoi gave the order to burn civilians in a kitchen and to kill a pregnant woman. He arrived on the scene after the house was already on fire, and stated that Massaquoi tried to shift the blame when higher commanders arrived. 
    • Witness 45 said that Angel Gabriel and his men killed the town chief and half the town of Kamatahun. This Witness said the killings were done by cutting the civilians’ throats with knives. 

The timing of events

  • At trial, Witness 39 stated that civilians were killed for looting in Waterside during the rainy season in 2001. Witness 41 stated that Massaquoi was present when people were killed for looting, and specified that he had not seen Massaquoi since 2001. Witness 40, on the other hand, recalled that the RUF killed civilians for looting in 2003, around “the time they told Charles Taylor to leave”, and likewise, Witness 46 stated that Gibril ordered the killing of looters in 2003, when Monrovia was “upside down”.
  • With respect to the death of Bull Dog, Witness 42 stated that the event occurred in 2001, and that he stopped seeing Massaquoi sometime between 2001 and 2002. Witnesses 43 and 44 both stated that the incident occurred between 2000 and 2001, and also indicated that they did not see Massaquoi after 2001. Witness 45 initially stated that the death occurred between 2000 and 2001, during the rainy season, but later stated it was between 2000 and 2002. 
  • Witnesses 46 and 47 recalled the events in Kamatahun occurring between 2001 and 2002. Witness 47 specified that the events occurred prior to an injury he suffered in August 2002, after which he was sent to Monrovia. 

Identifying remarks and roles

  • Many witnesses this week referred specifically to an individual with the surname “Massaquoi” as both the spokesman of the RUF and an individual exercising command or authority during several of the events described. 
    • Witnesses 43, 44, and 47 specified that Massaquoi also went by “Angel Gabriel” as a war name. Witness 41 did not know whether Gibril Massaquoi had a war name.
    • Witness 46 said that his cousin told him that Finland had a case against Gibril Massaquoi, and that the Witness connected the person he knew as “Angel Gabriel” to Gibril Massaquoi. 
    • Witness 39 placed General “Gubeh” Massaquoi in Monrovia in 2001 and confirmed that he was the spokesman of the RUF, who spoke with the BBC. Witness 40 said “Gube” Massaquoi was the RUF spokesman, while Witness 43 used the name Gabriel Massaquoi when referring to the RUF spokesman. Witness 47 recalled that Angel Gabriel Massaquoi was either the RUF’s third in command or its spokesman.
    • Witness 45 stated that Angel Gabriel was the first commander of the Death Squad, and that his full name was “Gabriel Wilson”. He offered that Angel Gabriel was in command of the soldiers in Waterside who shot at civilians and Bull Dog. Witness 40 stated that Salami was the commander of the Death Squad, and that one of its members, [FNM-109], killed the civilian looters. He clarified, however, that Massaquoi was a bigger man than Salami and that Massaquoi told [FNM-109] to shoot “anybody they catch in a store”. Meanwhile, Witness 41 stated that Benjamin Yeaten formed the Death Squad with foreign forces from Sierra Leone, including Salami and Gibril Massaquoi, and that he briefly saw them in Waterside.  
    • Witness 44 said that Angel Gabriel was in command of the RUF troops who were mixed in with the government troops in Waterside, and that he believed Angel Gabriel ordered his men to kill civilians. Witness 46 stated that Gibril Massaquoi and Salami were the commanders of the RUF forces in Waterside. Witness 42 stated that the RUF troops in Waterside were mixed in with “Jungle Fire”, a group under the control of Benjamin Yeaten. He stated that Massaquoi and his group had authority over all soldiers except those in Jungle Fire.
  • Witnesses 40, 41, and 44 stated that Massaquoi spoke Krio, while Witnesses 43, 46, and 47 said he spoke Mende. Witness 39 testified that Massaquoi spoke both Mende and Krio.

Interactions with the Finnish police

  • Witness 39’s phone number was taken by [FNM-096], his friend from the revolution, who relayed his number and information to [Employee 1]. [Employee 1] took him to meet the Finnish police in Monrovia, where Witness 39 was interviewed about the war. Witness 39 was interviewed twice. 
  • Witness 40 was not asked about his introduction to the Finnish police. 
  • Like Witness 39, Witness 41’s phone number was given to the Finnish police by a fellow former soldier, FNM-133.
  • Witness 42’s phone number was relayed to [Employee 1] by [FNM-098]. [Employee 1] called Witness 42, and then Witness 42 was interviewed by the Finnish police. Following his interview, Witness 42 put the Finnish police in contact with Witness 43, Witness 44, Witness 45, and two other persons, [FNM-137] and [FNM-138].  
  • Witness 46 was introduced to [Employee 1] by a friend, [FNM-144]. [FNM-144] gave [Employee 1] Witness 46’s contact information, and [Employee 1] put Witness 46 in contact with the Finnish police. 
  • Witness 47 was speaking about the war with [Employee 1] on public transportation when [Employee 1] asked if he would speak to the Finnish police. Witness 47 agreed. 

Emerging themes for Prosecution and Defense

This week, the Court heard testimony from former soldiers involved in the fighting in Lofa County and in Monrovia. As with last week’s testimony, the Prosecution sought to establish: Gibril Massaquoi’s connection to the nom de guerre “Angel Gabriel”; his presence at the events in question; his authority over soldiers committing violence against civilians; his direct orders to commit that violence; and his personal involvement in the violence. The Defense continued its strategies of: questioning whether “Angel Gabriel” was really Gibril Massaquoi; and raising doubts over witness’ recollection of the times that events occurred.

The timing of events was again a live issue, with witnesses offering different descriptions of the “World Wars”. Witness 39 stated that WW1 was 2001, WW2 was 2002, and WW3 was 2003. Witness 40 provided similar descriptions, but also spoke of a WW1, which occurred after Charles Taylor left. Witness 43 placed the death of Bull Dog in WW1 or WW2, noting that it could not have happened in WW3 because that was when the war really hit the city, and Witness 44 stated that WW1 and WW2 happened around 2002. Other witnesses were not able to specify the years in which certain events occurred, but remembered their sequence or referred to the level of fighting as a frame of reference. 

To assist in clarifying the authority exercised by the Accused, the Prosecution elicited testimony from Witnesses 39, 42, 43, and 44 that “Gabriel Massaquoi” had command over soldiers in Waterside, Monrovia in 2001, and that he was present when soldiers began shooting and capturing civilians there. Witness 39 was not present when the soldiers were ordered to open fire, but Witnesses 42, 43, and 44 testified that Gabriel Massaquoi personally gave the order to kill civilians and soldiers in the area. Further, Witnesses 42 and 43 reported that they directly witnessed Gabriel Massaquoi shooting people in Waterside. With respect to events in Lofa County, Witness 46 stated that Sam Bockarie was the overall commander of the RUF, but that Gibril Massaquoi was a “big man” who only answered to Benjamin Yeaten or Zigzag Marzah.

The testimony served to demonstrate some of the links between the RUF and Liberian soldiers, and further highlighted some of the relevant fighting units that existed at the time of the events, including the Death Squad and Jungle Fire. Each of these units were said to include Salami and Massaquoi as high-ranking members, and were also described as units operating in Monrovia under Benjamin Yeaten’s overarching authority. Witness 40, a former RUF child soldier and member of Jungle Fire, alluded to the overall chain of command, stating that he was too low-ranking to receive tasks directly from Massaquoi, but that Massaquoi would assign tasks to his battle commanders, who would then relay the tasks down to the lower ranks. 

Certain Defense questions touched on the witness’ credibility when it came to specific dates. For example, when Witness 39 indicated that he believed Johnny Paul Koroma was killed by the RUF in 2001, Defense Counsel noted that Johnny Paul Koroma ran for election in 2002. Referring to Witness 42’s pretrial statement that Gabriel Massaquoi was present in Monrovia after the death of Sam Bockarie, which the Witness believed to have occurred between 2002 and 2003, Defense Counsel stated that it was “generally known” that Sam Bockarie died in May 2003.

The Defense again raised questions about the pre-trial investigation. Defense Counsel noted that Witnesses 44 and 45 did not use the name “Angel Gabriel” a single time during their interviews with the Finnish police, and further questioned whether Witnesses 43 and 45 were told prior to their police interviews that they would be asked about Gibril Massaquoi. Defense Counsel also highlighted that, at the time of their interviews, Witnesses 44 and 46 stated that they had knowledge that Gibril Massaquoi was in Finland. The Defense additionally questioned the process by which the witnesses were provided with the photographs used to identify Massaquoi during the investigation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *