07/06/21 [Finland] Day 37: The Reports of Two Experts
The 37th day of public hearings resumed on 7 June in Tampere, Finland. The hearing focused on the reports of two experts.
Expert Report Presented by the Prosecution
The hearings opened with the presentation of Dr. Korkman’s expert statement. The Prosecution started by explaining that Dr. Korkman was a renowned professional in psychology, and that they had requested her expertise because they had realized that previous statements by witnesses had changed over time. Turning to the main points of the report, the Prosecution noted that often a change in a witness’ story is understood as proof of their dishonesty, but this is “too black and white.” As Korkman points out, hearings are often stressful and stress affects a person’s memory, and questions can be misunderstood. In addition, the details that a witness deems as important are often better remembered by them than other pieces of information. The Prosecution explained that the report provided evidence that solely on the basis that a witness has told their story differently in court than in preliminary investigations, one cannot conclude that the testimony is dishonest. Culture also plays a part in remembering, the Prosecution pointed out from the report, as there are different ways of defining passage of time and events. In addition, estimating dates and duration of events is something that humans are typically poor at, and answers are most often an estimate. Regarding the recognition of a person, it is understood to become harder with time. The Prosecution explained that the report found that due to stress and trauma during the investigation, witnesses often remember things better when they return home to their “safe space”. The Prosecution concluded their point by declaring that the preliminary investigations could be seen as a trigger that had activated the witnesses’ memories.
The Defense exposed their opinion on the report; they understand that the main point of the report is that the longer time passes, the worse the witnesses remember. Then the Defense referred to page 2 of the report, where Korkman explains that memories are recollections, guesses and estimates. The Defense argued that this was in line with what they had been pointing out, that people in the villages talk with each other and share a lot of the stories. These stories and memories can change radically over time. The Defense declared that information shared in the media also affected memories, and that Korkman says that humans are very good at imagining how an event happened. The Defense then referred to page 3 and the distortion of memories. They recalled from the report that personal stories could be distorted, and that another person with the same recollections may activate the other person’s memory. Moving to conflicting testimonies, the Defense quoted Korkman saying that the ability to discern experiences and construct a memory differed between persons and cultural groups. Based on that evidence, the Defense wondered whether they – as westerners – had the skills to evaluate how the Africans think and discern differently from western people. Referring to page 7 of Dr. Korkman’s statement, the Defense asserted that witness testimonies have weakened evidentiary value regarding recognition. The Defense concluded by stating that Dr. Korkman’s statement wasn’t perhaps necessary to the trial, suggesting that, even if she read through records, she would not necessarily provide better conclusions.
The Judge then decided that they will not have Dr. Korkman come personally to testify.
Expert Report Presented by the Defense
The hearing then focused on the second expert report by Mr. Käihkö which concerned the Liberian Civil Wars. The Defense said that throughout the trial, it had been important to clarify the times of events, for example in Monrovia, and that the statement would help with this. They started by noting that the LURD’s attacks in Monrovia had been called “World War 1-3”, with the peace negotiations in Accra as context. The Defense noted that the LURD wasn’t in Monrovia before summer of 2003. Regarding the so-called “Monrovia siege”, the report explained that it referred to the third attack in Monrovia during the summer of 2003, and that the three attacks were referred to as “World War one”, “World War two”, “World War three”. The attacks ended in August 2003 when Charles Taylor resigned and left the country. The element pointed out by the Defense was that LURD began coordinated attacks in Lofa in February 2001.
The Prosecution referred to page 8 of the report, and pointed out that shops were allegedly looted during different occasions, and that troops that tried to prevent looting through executions were themselves involved in these lootings. The Prosecution claimed that they couldn’t assume that the witness testimonies ought to be specific during this period. Furthermore, the Prosecution noted, from page 5, that the LURD had previously carried out four large attacks in Lofa, the first time at the end of 1999 and the last in July 2000. The expert had noted that these events haven’t been systematically investigated and recorded after the wars, implying that they haven’t been properly documented in history. In his report, Mr. Käikhö explained that the fact that the war lasted from Christmas eve 1989 to August 2003 was one reason for the exclusion of these events from the historical record, as the violence had become normalized.
The Prosecution then addressed criticisms from the Defense that the Prosecution hadn’t tried to prove guilt with written evidence. The Prosecution explained that, since most of the witnesses may be illiterate and lack education, there was rarely any written evidence. They argued that the absence of written evidence didn’t mean that oral statements couldn’t prove guilt. The Prosecution concluded by saying that the study conducted by Mr. Käihkö had faced the same issues as the court proceedings.
The Defense commented that they had been able to collect more evidence when the testimonies had been more specific regarding time periods. Referring to the report, the Defense noted that the most violent acts had been committed towards the end, during the summer of 2003. The Defense claimed that the Prosecution relied in most cases on the fact that “it is possible”, and defended that the court couldn’t rely on facts that may or may not have happened. They insisted that there was no proof or records that the attacks had happened in Monrovia, and stated that, following Mr. Käihkö’s report, attacks had happened in Lofa.
The Prosecution recognized that investigating had been hard and that many elements remained unclear. They expressed the wish to ask Mr. Käihkö whether he had heard the name of the defendant in some form or another during his investigations. Asked by the Judge whether they wished to hear the expert, the Defense responded that they wanted to check with him first whether “he [was] able at all to answer the few unclear questions about his statement”. The Defense specified that they would answer by the day after. For their part, the Prosecution stated that they didn’t have a need to hear the expert. They recalled that the law required the expert to be impartial, and believed that they couldn’t have Mr. Käihkö both as an expert and as a witness. The Defense replied that they should find a solution so that they could have any additional information such as names that the expert had heard during the expeditions. The Prosecution commented that the Defense had to choose whether Mr. Käihkö was to be heard as a witness or as an expert. The Defense offered that Mr. Käihkö “has studied a lot so he could have more information.” After discussing with the Prosecution whether Käihkö should be heard, the Defense recalled that in the witness hearings the defendant had been pointed as having the main role, and wondered why the defendant’s name hadn’t been mentioned before in other records. The Prosecution reiterated that if Käihko was to be heard and questioned concerning the names, then that would make him a witness. The Defense responded that they needed time to think about it and inquired if they could ask Käihkö whether he knows anything about Massaquoi prior that they assess whether they hear him or not. The Judge retorted that this was problematic.
The Defense maintained that having Mr. Käihkö as a witness could be as valuable as having him as an expert. They indicated that they would write to him and ask him if he had in any way become aware of names and titles during the expeditions. If the answer were to be positive, then they would have a new situation, the Defense added. The Prosecution clarified that Mr. Käihkö had to understand that they were asking questions on culpability, and not just searching for causality. The Judge declared that they would follow the proposal of the Defense.
The afternoon session focused on scheduling the upcoming hearings of this week and next. The hearing will resume on Friday 11 June.