07/04/21 [Liberia] Day 27: The Hearing of Witnesses 53, 54, and 55
Witness 53 is heard
(Finnish Witness ID: Soldier 12)
The Prosecution questions Witness 53
The Witness began his testimony by saying he is Liberian, but he used to live in Sierra Leone and that he was a RUF soldier there, under the command of “Gibril Massaquoi”. He joined the troops in 1991, at the age of twelve. He later on specified that he had joined the RUF on his own will, as a consequence of “something that somebody did to [him] that hurt [him]”. Witness 53 explained that in 1999 he came to Liberia with Gibril Massaquoi and they were assigned toLofa to fight against LURD. Among the towns he remembers, he listed Kamatahun, Masambolahun, Popalahun, Voinjama, Vahun and Zorzor. The Witness also named Issa Sesay, Superman, and Gibril Massaquoi as the RUF commanders he could recall. Gibril Massaquoi had been the Witness’s commander for a long time before they crossed the border to Liberia; he didn’t remember if he had any war name, only that he was the RUF spokesman in Sierra Leone.
The Prosecution wanted to hear about the incident in Kamatahun. Witness 53 said that in 2000, during the dry season, he saw civilians being placed in a house, which was then burned down. He further clarified that the order was given by Gibril Massaquoi and explained that “the man just felt that because he was a commander and had influence, that’s why he did that.”. The Witness was not able to estimate how many people were killed because there were many. The Witness recalled that the house was in the center of town, and specified that if you were coming on the road from Vahun, it would be on your right.
The Witness then stated that they were transferred to Monrovia in 2003 and based in Congo Town at White Flower. Massaquoi was also with them. Witness 53 explained that Massaquoi “didn’t do anything bad in Monrovia, only in the bush”.
Asked how he got in contact with the Finnish police, Witness 53 explained that a close friend of his, [Soldier 07], gave his number to the police. The Witness specified that [Soldier 07] only told him some people wanted to “discuss certain things”. It was through this friend that the Witness met with the police.
The Defense questions Witness 53
The Defense began by enquiring whether the Witness knew [Employee 1]. Witness 53 explained that he heard the name from [Soldier 07] but he never met nor spoke to [Employee 1]. When asked whether he remembered the names of the commanders who came to Liberia from Sierra Leone, the Witness mentioned Gibril Massaquoi, Superman, Hindolo, “Ranger”, “CO MED”, and, when prompted, Sam Bockarie.
The Witness recalled that they were first assigned in Vahun and remained there for more than three years. He noted that Gibril Massaquoi usually did not go to the frontline with them because he was a commander, so he would stay in town. Witness 53 explained that they spent two months fighting in Kolahun. The Defense read the record from the police interview in which the Witness indicated that they had spent seven months in Kolahun. Witness 53 clarified that they were based there for seven months, two of which were spent fighting with the enemies. Massaquoi was with them the entire time.
The Witness explained that they were transferred to Monrovia in 2003 because they were undergoing attacks from the LURD. The LURD pursued them to Monrovia and the Witness recalled that they fought in the city in August 2003. He specified that the last time he saw Gibril Massaquoi was prior to the fighting. The Witness said the war ended at the end of 2003.
When asked by the Prosecution, Witness 53 recalled that the peace agreement was signed at “the end of 2003 going to 2004, before the UN troops entered”. He then stated that Charles Taylor fled the country at the end of 2003.
Witness 54 is heard
(Finnish Witness ID: GJRP 1)
The Prosecution questions Witness 54
The Witness began by describing his activities during the Second Liberian Civil War. He worked as a journalist with the Analyst Newspaper, and for a short period of time, he worked as a diplomatic press officer. He also worked on a programme for International Alert for the Press Union of Liberia. The Witness added that his line of work caused him many issues, leading him to be arrested seven times. He clarified that his “writings focused largely on Sierra Leone and Human Rights violations”.
Witness 54 went on to describe the last time he was arrested, on June 24, 2002, specifying that “it was a Monday”. His son, [FNM-153], was ill and the Witness had taken him to hospital. When they left the hospital, Witness 54’s son asked his father for some food. As they were walking on the sidewalk by their house, “a red two-doors vehicle parked in front of [them]”. The Witness recalled that “four or five men” assaulted him and beat him. They forced the Witness into the car and his son was left alone on the sidewalk as they drove away. A friend of the Witness, [FNM-154], who saw the events took care of [FNM-153]. Witness 54 was brought to the Liberia National Police Headquarters and was kept there for a few hours, “only wearing a shirt”. The Witness was then told by the then director of Police, Paul Mulbah, that he was detained because “[he] had plotted to overthrow the Liberian Government”. Witness 54 was then brought to the President’s house in Congo Town where he saw government officials, sitting on the floor “even though there were chairs”. Among the people present, he listed the Minister of Information, the NSA Director, the Chief of Protocol Musa Sesay, Benjamin Yeaten, the Defense Minister, Emmanuel Shaw and many others. Witness 54 noted that Charles Taylor made him sit on a couch. Charles Taylor explained to the Witness that he had received some information saying that Witness 54 had undergone a training in “communist agitation” in Eastern Europe, and that from there he had collected weapons which he had stored at the US Embassy. Taylor also accused the Witness of writing inciting stories, travelling to Côte d’Ivoire to recrute twenty-four mercenaries, and working for the then former presidential candidate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in order to overthrow Taylor and take over the presidency. In addition to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Taylor also accused the Bishop Michael Francis of the Catholic Archdiocese, Alhaji Kromah and Robert Perry – who at the time worked for the US State Department.
Charles Taylor wanted to record the Witness statement on camera but the Witness denied the veracity of the story he had just been told. The President interrogated the Witness until the next day, threatening him to “call someone to make [him] tell the truth”. Witness 54 specified that Charles Taylor called Benjamin Yeaten and said “take this man away and let him tell the truth”. The police first took Witness 54 to the press Union’s office where they searched for evidence. The Witness said that the policemen only found a picture of Alhaji Kromah, Sekou Damate Conneh, and a picture of George Boley, which they interpreted as evidence of the Witness’s culpability. There was also a picture of Charles Taylor and the Witness explained that it was common for a media institution to “have pictures of the main people [they] write about”.
Witness 54 further stated that the police brought him first to a depot in Red Light, before they transferred him to Zone 5 in Congo Town, where he remained for about ten days. The Witness recalled that he was “very hungry”, so he wrote a note to a friend, [FNM-155], asking him to give money to a police officer so he could buy some food for him. Instead, the police arrested [FNM-155] and stole his money and his gasoline, as [FNM-155] later told the Witness. He was then transferred to Zone 7 in Cardwell, where he was given trousers and slippers. From there, Witness 54’s was moved to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) where he stayed for about a week. The then director of NBI, Ramsey Moore, attempted to deceive the Witness, showing him a printed email as proof “that [the Witness] had communicated with the enemies”. He denied being the author of the email, arguing that he “spoke and wrote better English than what was on the email”. The Witness also indicated that a BBC correspondent, [FNM-169] was made to come and see him. According to the Witness, the NBI wanted to prove that he was still alive. He also indicated to the court that there were several articles about this online.
The Witness then explained that he was briefly transferred to Zone 6, in Brewerville, and was eventually taken to Klay. There, he stated, he endured “the worst torture of [his] life”, noting that he still has scars from being tied tabay. In Klay, Witness 54 was imprisoned with several people; he listed [FNM-170], [FNM-171], [FNM-172], [FNM-173] and [FNM-174] among those imprisoned with him. Witness 54 described the place as “an underground prison half-filled with water” and he specified that the prison was originally “a weigh station for trucks hauling rubber from the Guthrie Rubber Plantation”. He added that PBS had done a documentary on it.
The Witness went on to describe the torture that was inflicted to him. It included being tied tabay and the electrocution of his genitals: he explained how he later had to seek treatment in the US. The Witness explained he was tabayed by “a man who introduced himself as Angel Gabriel”. This person asked the Witness whether he knew what “Angel Gabriel” meant. He also introduced himself as “Gibril” saying that he could tell the Witness was muslim and “Gibril” was the islamic translation for Gabriel, the angel. The Witness recalled that two other people were present when he was tortured, but for security reasons he refused to publicly call their name. He nevertheless wrote them on paper and presented them to the court. Witness 54 explained that they used to interrogate people individually. He added that when they tied him the rope would enter his flesh; the Witness stressed that “Angel Gabriel” was leading the interrogation. As for the electrocution, the Witness did not know who ordered it, but it was a woman who directly carried out the act. He clarified that Massaquoi was present when the electrocution occured and reiterated that he was tabayed by Massaquoi. Witness 54 went into details and said that whenever he felt some pain and tried to resist, Massaquoi “stepped on [his] back and kicked [him]”. The Witness stated that Massaquoi had a higher position than the woman who carried out the electrocution. When asked by the Prosecution what his understanding of this was, the Witness retorted that “if he had wanted to stop her, he would have”.
Describing “Mr. Massaquoi”, Witness 54 said he considered him to be Sierra Leonean on account of his accent and that he had heard about him and the RUF on the radio.
The Witness estimated that he was tortured several times by Massaquoi. He recalled that it usually happened during the night and believed the reason for this was so that the other prisoners could hear the Witness’s sufferings. Witness 54 specified that Benjamin Yeaten would sometimes be present during the torture, noting that when Yeaten was absent, Angel Gabriel would be present. The Witness believed that he was tortured on the “26th of July” and released on the “7th of December 2002”. He added that he did not meet Massaquoi anywhere else than in Klay. When asked by the Prosecution, the Witness displayed the scars on his arms.
The Defense questions Witness 54
The Defense began by asking the Witness what his relation with GJRP was. The Witness replied that he was the director of this non-governmental organisation that aims to document “crimes committed during two of Liberia’s civil wars”, and added that they work with their partner organisation, Civitas Maxima, based in Geneva, Switzerland. In addition to documenting crimes, GJRP seeks justice “on behalf of victims, with their informed consent”. He clarified that they did so through their partner organisation Civitas Maxima, “since the Liberian Government is either unable or unwilling to hold people accountable for war related crimes”. Witness 54 later clarified that GJRP has been active since March 2012.
The Defense asked if the Witness himself had ever interviewed people about incidents during the war. The Witness answered that he did. When asked about the fundings of his organisation, the Witness explained that funding comes through Civitas Maxima; he also mentioned UNHCR, the EU, and the Africa Transitional Legacy Group.
The Witness provided some clarifications as to his journalist activity during the war. He indicated that he wrote several articles condemning the government’s support of the RUF in Sierra Leone. When asked, he acknowledged having written one article for a newspaper that took sides during the civil war; this piece questioned “the sincerity and honesty of Liberian warring factions” and was entitled “Where are the Magic Solutions?”. The Defense quoted the Witness’s statement to the Finnish police in which the Witness stated that he was very critical of the RUF. The Witness explained that, apart from that one occasion, he only wrote for the Analyst Newspaper.
The Defense enquired whether the Witness remembered when he had disclosed for the first time what had happened to him in that prison. He responded that he did not remember when exactly, but noted that he spoke to various newspapers about it, among which The Guardian and The Boston Newspaper. Pressed by the Defense, the Witness said he was not sure whether he mentioned the name “Gibril Massaquoi” to these newspapers, but believed he did so. He clarified that he did call Massaquoi’s name at the Kennedy School of Government, in Massachusetts, but did not discuss the details with the media.
The Witness said he testified in the Charles Taylor trial and indicated that, although he did not remember the details of his testimony, he asserted that he talked about “RUF in Liberia, actions in Sierra Leone, [his] torture”. The Defense then asked how the Witness recalled the 26th of June 2002 as the day he was tortured. Witness 54 clarified that he spoke with several of the prisoners, and they told him it was Independence Day, so he believed that was the day.
The Defense asked the Witness whether he remembered what he had stated at the Charles Taylor trial regarding the time he left Klay. The Witness explained that after Klay he was transferred to a prison in Foya before being flown to Monrovia at the NBI headquarters. There he was received by US Ambassador John William Blanney, specifying that the government was releasing him “under the condition that [the US] would fly [him] out of Liberia”. The Witness clarified that he was first taken to Ghana and then to the US. The Defense reiterated its question regarding the Witness statement at the Charles Taylor trial. The Witness replied that he believed to have left Klay “sometime in August”. He stated that after the torture he was mentally confused, and worried about the long lasting effects of the torture on his body. Witness 54 added that he hates to go over the experience because he feels that he is reliving it again.
The Defense questioned the Witness about an interview he did with Civitas Maxima in 2018. In this interview, the Witness stated that he was taken to Klay on the 26th of July 2002 and was tortured at least twice before Gibril Massaquoi arrived. The Witness answered that since that interview, he has talked to several prisoners who were present in Klay at that time, which provided Witness 54 with a better understanding. He explained that the chronology was not clear to him prior to the discussions with the prisoners, as he had been held in solitary confinement before going to Klay and was therefore “mentally disoriented”. The Witness clarified that he could have changed the interview, as he was the author of the statement, but decided against it because “[he] wanted to be honest”. The Defense also noted that there was no mention of the female torturer in the report. The Witness answered that it was intentional and invoked his religion -he specified that in Islam “we do not publicly mention the private parts” and pointed out that the torturer was mentioned in his statement during the trial of Charles Taylor. In the statement to Civitas Maxima, the Defense noted that the Witness also said that “Mr. Massaquoi” used the electrocution machine. The Defense then questioned whether it was a fact that the woman also used the machine. Witness 54 replied that, as previously stated, he did not know who executed the order but reiterated that order was given by “Mr. Massaquoi”. In the same interview the Defense also pointed out that the Witness stated “July 2001” when he was transferred to Klay after having spent two months in jail already. The Witness acknowledged his statement and said he miscalculated the time. He asserted that he has been consistent with the date of his arrest and the 26th of July. When asked whether he had mentioned the electrocution of his genitals to the press, the Witness answered that he did not remember to whom exactly, but he had.
Prosecution questions Witness 54 further
The Prosecution asked the Witness what language Massaquoi spoke; Witness 54 responded that he spoke Sierra Leonean English, but “based on the name styling” he believed Massaquoi to be Mende. The Prosecution then wanted to elaborate further on his role during the investigation on the case, as the Witness had stated “the Finnish police had told GJRP to get their hands off this thing and [that] ‘we will take care of it from now on’”. The Witness explained that GJRP did not continue; however, the Finnish police had asked assistance from one of GJRP’s staff to “show them around Liberian and other things”. Since then, the Witness had not been involved. He added that he was asked twice to testify, by Civitas Maxima and the Finnish police, and he had refused. He specified that [Employee 1] and [Employee 2] worked with the Finnish police; however, only [Employee 1] kept on working for the police. The Witness explained that he had spoken with both members of his staff, but not about this particular case – and in order to keep informed, the Witness just read the newspapers. [Employee 2] had called him and told him he did not like to work out of town and that he fell ill, and specified that he had been on different assignments since. The Witness also sought to clarify that he had not spoken to any witness on the case. The Prosecution asked the Witness if Massaquoi had beaten him whilst he was detained. Witness 54 explained that Massaquoi had hit him, although he did not know with what and added that “when my face was pressed on the ground and I resisted, he kicked on me”.
Finally, the Witness said “ I want to say thanks to the Court. I want to let you know that the GJRP may not be 100%. I do not see any research institution that is 100%, but the point is that GJRP follows the real international standard of investigation. For example, I trained along folks with Scotland Yard. [Employee 1] too trained with someone on the Prosecution team, but we follow the rules. There are TED rule, the DATA rule; always maintain your original notes. So we follow the basic rules that has been developed by Europeans and Americans have developed. In Liberia, we encourage out investigators to carry their notebooks, because In Liberia we say “copy head ain’t better than copy book.” I want to say thank you, you’ve done really great.”
Witness 55 is heard
(Finnish Witness ID: Employee 1)
The Witness began by stating he works for GJRP. As he was working on a field mission in 2019 in Lofa, he met Thomas Elfgren casually. He then met him again three months later, after his boss, [GJRP 1] told him that the Finnish police requested assistance.
When the Witness met with the Finnish police, they set some rules: these included not working with anyone else, and that his wages were going to be paid by the Finnish NBI. They paid him the same wages he was already earning and when the Witness asked them why, Thomas replied that “it’s a legal matter and they couldn’t give me any favours”. He was instructed to identify some villages and towns, given maps, phone credit, and had a notepad and a pen. He left for Lofa a few days later; his travel and board were compensated by the Finnish police.
Once in Voinjama, he seeked someone who was local, who could understand the local culture and language because “as a professional, I knew there is no way you can ignore the culture”. This is how he met [FNM-078]. He communicated this to the Finnish police who still advised him to “keep your eyes open”. The Witness and [FNM-078] started to visit the villages indicated by the police.
The Witness explained that [FNM-078] taught him that you could not just enter a village and ask questions – first you needed to meet with their leaders and explain to them why you were there. It was then up to them to explain to the people what the Witness needed to learn from them.
The Witness was not allowed to take statements. He could only ask “if they saw people being killed, whether they saw people being placed in houses and burnt and whether they had encounters with the RUF leaders”. Some of the town chiefs would not disclose anything, others told them to come back later when they discussed with the villagers. When they could speak with the people, the Witness asked them that “if they were willing to talk to some white guys who are coming and want to talk to you.” When the people asked him if he could refer the story, the Witness explained that he was instructed to only ask certain questions.
On April 13, the NBI arrived in Lofa. They had to follow the same process the Witness had to, and he said he played a very minimal role once they were there. [FNM-078] was interpreting – the process of interviewing people would last for hours, so not all of the interviews were taken the same day. The Witness then specified how not all the people might know him by name or recognise his face. He later explained this as “in Liberia once you stand for justice you are being targeted. In recent times, there have been killings” and explained how he had moved because of security reasons since starting to work on the case.
When they arrived in Monrovia, the Finnish police still needed his services. He found more witnesses in a week’s time. He reiterated once again that he had completely detached from GJRP, and he was now working for the NBI; however, when he was not working for the NBI, he had returned to GJRP as a researcher. He had not investigated Gibril Massaquoi on behalf of GJRP when the NBI left.
The NBI returned to Liberia in November 2019. Before then, the NBI requested his services again. So he left GJRP to prepare for his second mission: he clarified that he did not disclose any information nor he did not take any instruction from his organization. This time the NBI told him to go towards the border with Sierra Leone; he communicated with [FNM-078] and visited the other towns he was instructed to go to. Once there, he followed the same “community entry” he had done in the other villages. He then presented his work to the NBI, and they wanted to speak with Zigzag Marzah – the Witness reached out to him, and told him the police wanted to talk to him. After some discussions on where to meet, Zigzag Marzah met him. The Witness pointed out that he was very suspicious of him, but told him that he had fought in Sierra Leone, and named a few fighters. The Witness clarified that this was before the NBI reached them – he also told Zigzag that the Finnish police did not pay for information. When the NBI came, Zigzag requested payment and said “you guys would need me if you would make any progress.” and left. The NBI continued with interviews.
The Witness explained how he was not present for any interview – nor did anyone tell him what was being discussed. The Witness did not have access to any documents. He also clarified that he did not speak Finnish.
At this point during the testimony, the Prosecution asked the Witness about the notepad he kept in front of him. Witness 55 responded that he kept his notes on it, and asked whether he should close it – the Prosecution answered that it was fine, as long as he let the Court know when he was checking it for dates.
The Witness then described how he approached people that discussed the war – people would just talk about it in public places, including public transport. He would then ask them if they would be willing to talk about their experiences to others and that “Sometime they say yes, sometimes they say no”.
The Prosecution asked the Witness if he knew personally any people pertaining to this case – Witness 55 responded that he knew [FNM-067], who led him to [Soldier 07], who then introduced him to a lot of ex combattants.
The Witness then explained that he was not there to greet the witnesses once they arrived at the venue: he only spoke with them on the phone and/or directed them there – another person dealt with that. He also clarified that he did not know which witness was called by Prosecution or Defence – the only exception was [Defence Witness 14]. It had taken the Witness a week to find him because the Defence really needed him.
Witness 55 then explained what training he had: he explained he underwent training with The Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI). He also added that he was lucky enough to go to the Hague to read a International Criminal Investigations (IICI) program. He also trained with the Royal Netherlands Army School for Peace for the “hostile environment awareness training” where he learned “how to identify mass grave, and how hostile forces operate at checkpoint.” He added that he had the attendance certificates with him, and that the Court could take copies of them.
The first time he had heard about Gibril Massaquoi or Angel Gabriel was 3 to 4 years before, when he was not working for GJRP still – he had heard the names from Sierra Leonean fighters in Liberia.
The Prosecution asked the Witness if he had promised healthcare or scholarships to the witness if they testified – Witness 55 denied this. He then was asked if he reported any of the work with the NBI to Civitas Maxima or GJRP – the Witness said “absolutely not, we don’t talk”. The Witness offered that Alain Werner, the director of Civitas Maxima, called him five days before his testimony to tell him “to be clear on my work with the NBI and say the truth”.
The Defense questions Witness 55
The Defence wanted to know when the Witness returned to work for GJRP – Witness 55 responded that he had to check his notes because he could not “say it off-head”.
When asked again if he had known any other person previously to the investigation, the Witness reiterated that he knew [FNM-067], but they met over a 100 people, so he might have known someone else.
The Witness then clarified that the only notes he took were the names of the witnesses, and that the police knew about his notes but did not request to see them – Witness 55 offered the Defense his notes.
The Defense then wanted further clarifications on the alleged promise of benefits for the witnesses, wondering why some of them have disclosed that to the Court. Witness 55 responded that he did not know why they would say so.
Witness 55 also explained that he did not discuss the GJRP with the witnesses, only spoke about the NBI. He also added that he did not mention the name Gibril Massaquoi or Angel Gabriel to anyone, nor did he disclose that the police wanted to hear about the 99 Steps incident.
The Defense then asked the Witness if he had told [GJRP 1] about Zigzag Marzah – Witness 55 responded that it was Thomas himself who approached [GJRP 1] about it. The Defense however understood that it was the Witness himself who told [GJRP 1]. Witness 55 insisted that he did not speak to him, and that it was Thomas that asked to speak to Marzah or other aide de camp – he added that [GJRP 1] turned him down.
Witness 55 specified once again that he was not involved in the transport of the Witnesses to and from the venue – he offered that [FNM-078] was facilitating this with the witnesses from Lofa.
The Defense noted that in the pre-trial investigation summary, it showed that police interviewed 80 civs and 50 soldiers. Overall, the Defense recalled that few witnesses were unable to give the name “Gibril Massaquoi” or “Angel Gabriel”, and further noted that the police had written down how each witness came into the conversation. The Defense told Witness 55 that he reviewed these documents, and noticed that every witness who came in contact with the police through him, gave the name “Gibril Massaquoi” or “Angel Gabriel”.
The Witness responded that he did not know that, but that he accepted all the information these people gave him. When asked by the Defense whether he did something to ensure that the witnesses would say these names, the Witness absolutely denied this suggestion. He further offered that, when he met the NBI, the police showed him pictures and asked if he could identify Angel Gabriel, and he could not.
The Prosecution interjected, and the Witness explained that he never questioned the information he was given by the NBI: he just followed orders. He also explained how witnesses would first come and testify, but then they would be hesitant – “when most people hear white people they think money” and made the example of Zigzag Marzah. However, he “would tell them no, you have to say your story”.
The Witness also specified that he had been to the venue once, and that he had introduced himself to some witnesses, and not with others.
The Defense pointed out some inconsistencies regarding how many times the Witness had been to the venue – Witness 55 pointed out that he had never been inside of the venue, although he went there several times.
He then clarified that he was not aware if GJRP had sent background information on Gibril Massaquoi to Civitas Maxima. Finally, he was asked how many people that worked for either organization could have done the interviews – the Witness explained “we are about 14 persons, out of the 4 you have about 6”. He also explained that some background information was done, but he had not partaken in that.