11/06/21 [Finland] Day 38: The Hearing of the Expert Witness Mr. Käihkö

The 38th day public hearings resumed on 11 June 2021 in Tampere, Finland. The day’s focus was the hearing of the expert witness Mr. Käihkö, whose report was discussed in previous hearings. 

The Defense questions Mr. Käihkö

The Defense opened by asking the expert witness about his education and experience on the matter of the Liberian civil wars. Mr. Käihkö stated that he was a docent in military sciences and that he had conducted 15 months field study on Liberian Civil Wars. He specified that the study took place between 2012 and 2021, but mostly in 2012, 2013, and 2017. When asked whether he would like to add anything to his statement, Mr. Käihkö replied that he did not.

The Defense proceeded to ask specific questions based on the report. The Defense referred to page 8 of Mr. Käihkö’s expert witness statement, where the expert explained that during the Waterside violence, LURD invaded the Freeport of Monrovia. Then, the Defense asked the expert witness whether he had observed violence prior to 2003. Mr. Käihkö answered that it was difficult to estimate, as there was chaos in Monrovia such as robbery, and famine. The expert witness declared that, to his understanding, there was violence during the summer of 2003. The Defense then asked about an incident in West Point, when Charles Taylor’s SSS troops shot into a store that was being robbed. The Defense wished to know when it had happened. The expert witness explained that no one was able to state the exact date; however, he was under the impression that it happened in 2003. He further declared that someone had stated that “50” was present during the operation, but specified that he was unsure as to whether “50” was there to calm the situation or the one calling the shots. 

Asked how many people he had interviewed and where these interviews had taken place, Mr. Käihkö described that he had interviewed around 300 soldiers in Monrovia, in 15 different provinces, as well as in one city in the east. Additionally, he stated that he interviewed hundreds of civilians, and that some of the conversations were informal. Referring to page 16 of Mr. Käihkö’s statement, the Defense asked the expert witness why he had stated that staying in Waterside in 2012 had been an integral part of his study. The expert witness responded that during his time in Monrovia, he was living near Waterside, which made it easy to commute by taxi and conduct interviews in the neighboring areas, including Waterside. Mr. Käihkö explained that some names came up during these interviews, and that people were still scared to talk about the war. The Defense wished to hear about the names mentioned during the interviews. The expert witness stated that there were mentions of names of people from the troops, and names of commanders. He expressed his doubt as to whether it was appropriate to name them during the trial. Upon the insistence of the Defense, Mr. Käihkö declared that the defendant’s name didn’t come up during the interviews, and neither did the name Gabriel. He reported two names of Liberian militias, and the name “Zigzag”, and two other names from Sierra Leone. The Defense then asked why people would use warrior names. Mr. Käihkö explained that they did so in order to create a role for themselves during the war, or only for dramatics. He exemplified this by saying that many people went by the name of Rambo. The expert witness specified that these warrior names were used inside the organisations. 

When asked by the Defense whether he considered it normal for someone to reveal their warrior name when killing other people, Mr. Käihkö responded that it depended on the situation. He explained that one might reveal their name in order to scare people and to teach them a lesson, specifying that the troops were also known by their real name. Mr. Käihkö asserted that when one reveals both their warrior name and real name, it means that warrior name isn’t used to protect the person’s real identity. 

Referring to the expert’s statement, the Defense wished to understand why 40 people who took part in the Liberian war were mentioned as to have been essential to the study. The expert witness explained that he had spent a lot of time with them, and that it is difficult to find people willing to talk about the violence civilians endured. He stated that he was able to gain a fuller understanding of their experiences, but specified that their stories were not always consistent. When asked by the Defense, Mr. Käihkö asserted that these people had stated some names and talked about the events in Waterside and Monrovia. He specified that they mentioned bigger cities rather than small villages, and also some dramatic events in Foya.

The Prosecution questions Mr. Käihkö

The Prosecution started by asking the expert witness whether he had visited Lofa and other smaller villages. Mr. Käihkö explained that he wasn’t able to visit every small village but visited villages west of Foya, as well as Voinjama. He specified that the above-mentioned civilians were from the Voinjama area, the troops interviewed were from Liberia, and LURD troops were originally from Guinea, but no longer had an established home. Mr. Käihkö also stated that the people he interviewed in Monrovia and Waterside were from West Point, which is near Waterside, and that more than half of the civilians he interviewed lived in West Point or Waterside. 

The Prosecution then asked Mr. Käihkö why, to his view, Liberians have difficulty in telling when everything occurred, and specifically are not able to state months or years. The expert witness explained that low level of education and not being able to read played a part. He described that the people he interviewed “would typically only know the current day of the week”. Mr. Käihkö also noted that they had difficulties to state the exact moment something happened, and stated that the fact that these events were traumatic may also have affected the narrative. The Prosecution then asked Mr. Käihkö’s opinion regarding how he evaluates the reliability of somebody’s story and knows whether they are telling the truth. Mr. Käihkö replied that it was a difficult question and said that he can compare stories told on several occasions over a wide time span. He declared that if the narrative was consistent then he trusted that someone was telling the truth. 

Additional questions from the Defense and the Prosecution

The Defense inquired about the people interviewed by Mr. Käihkö, whether they were able to tell when something happened. Mr Käihkö responded that they were able to place the event before or after other occurrences, and that by connecting these events he was able to build a timeline. Sometimes they were able to indicate the year, but it was not necessarily precise. Mr. Käihkö explained that when the year was inaccurate, it would depend on the person interviewed whether he would rely more on the year or on the occurrence he was told about. The expert witness then stated that the battle in Irongate/Water Bridge took place in 2003. The Defense wished to know when the LURD were in Vai Town. The Prosecution and the Defense then argued over whether the question was appropriate, but the Judge approved it. The expert witness replied that it was during summer 2003. When further asked by the Defense, Mr. Käihkö stated that the LURD was in Duola and Old Bridge in July 2003.

The Prosecution asked whether people were able to tell what the LURD was, who was part of it and what they did. Mr. Käihkö declared that the LURD was not acknowledged well until 2002, and that not many Liberians are able to understand what happened during the war. 

Referring to the ignorance of the LURD from civilians, the Defense wished to know how the expert witness was able to ascertain that the LURD actually existed and was active in 2003. Mr. Käihkö explained that his work was based on narratives, video material, and written sources. He specified that there was no record of battles against the government until 2003. 

Discussion between the Court, the Prosecution and the Defense

The Defense claimed that there had been two different types of evidence and that witnesses talked about two different events. They wished to ask the Prosecution whether today was about one or two different events. The Prosecution responded that when referring to the Waterside shootings into stores, there had been multiple occurrences. The Defense commented that there might be “several different occasions”, and the Prosecution said that not everyone knew that these events were connected to the LURD. 

The Defense explained that the witness statements were an integral part of this case. They announced that in their closing statement they would make a summary of the witness statements, since it is difficult to evaluate the statements as a whole. They specified that they would present a table containing all witness statements and in the order they were heard about Monrovia events. The Defense explained that originally all the Witnesses in Monrovia talked about the LURD and the war in 2003. The Defense also claimed that the Prosecution’s witnesses changed the timeline after Massaquoi was in the safehouse. The Prosecution commented that they thought that this was very problematic. The court declared that they encouraged the Prosecution and the Defense to discuss it first. The Defense indicated that they could send the table to the Prosecution, noting that the police investigation and how it had been conducted was essential regarding the result of the trial. 

The Court and the parties discussed the schedule of the next hearings. The Prosecution said that they were expecting the additional investigation report concerning the new witnesses and their hearing, and that they should be available at the beginning of the coming week. The Judges commented that the sooner, the better, but indicated that they were willing to be flexible with their summer holidays in order to finish the trial. They indicated that they would continue with the hearing of Morrisette from Canada on 16 June.

The hearing ended and will resume on 16 June 2021.

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