18/06/21 [Finland] Day 41: A New Witness is Heard

The 41st day of public hearings resumed on 18 June in Tampere, Finland. A new witness was heard.

Witness FNM-226 is Heard

The Judge indicated that the Witness was accompanied by her assistant, FNM-233, who will assist the Witness in determining whether she has the right to refuse to answer certain questions. Otherwise, the assistant will not participate in the hearing. 

The Defense questions the Witness

The Defense opened by asking the Witness about her position in Human Right Watch (HRW) in the years 2000 or before. The Witness replied that at that time she was a researcher in the Africa division in Sierra Leone, based in Freetown. She started that position in 1999. She indicated that her educational background was a master’s degree. When asked how she came to know the defendant, the Witness explained that she was based in Freetown from 1999 – 2003 and met Massaquoi on several occasions because of her work at HRW. She said her first meeting with Mr. Massaquoi was on June 22, 2001. When asked how she remembered this, the Witness explained that in preparation for the case, she read her notes based on this case, and written down relevant dates. She met with Mr. Massaquoi on eight different occasions over fifteen months, for different reasons. The Witness added that during these meetings they discussed various issues, and offered to recount the details of these meetings. She explained that at her and Mr. Massaquoi’s first meeting there was another RUF official present, but she could not disclose who it was. Regarding her first meeting with the defendant, the Witness said “the meeting was meant to advocate for people who had been captured by RUF”. The meeting took place within the context of implementation of the Sierra Leone peace agreement. The Witness commented that they were worried about people being detained in prisons and being killed by RUF in the Pademba Road prison. She said that they discussed some of the allegations and abuses of the RUF and the ceasefire violations. The Witness clarified that she met with Massaquoi in particular because he was the “RUF communications spokesperson.”

The second meeting took place on the 5th July 2001. The Witness stated that the content was similar to that of the first meeting and they also discussed some historical aspects in the Sierra Leonean war, such as the role of the RUF and the AFRC. The third meeting took place six days later, on 11th July 2001. The meeting was brief. According to the Witness, they discussed the situation in a hospital in Makeni where she was interviewing people. She didn’t remember whether she had called Mr. Massaquoi or just stopped by his office. The Witness then described another meeting in 2001, also in Makeni, on 18 July. She specified that she had called Mr. Massaquoi on his mobile phone, adding that she had his email address and phone number. Asked by the Defense if there were any other telephone contacts in 2001, the Witness said she probably called Mr. Massaquoi to arrange these meetings a day or two in advance, adding that she usually contacted him on his mobile phone. She commented that she called to initiate all the meetings, and said she didn’t know whether mobile phones were working in those areas at that time. The Witness said that usually she would call his cell phone, and it was easy to reach him. In 2002 she received a satellite phone number for Massaquoi but never called it.

Turning to the year 2002, the Defense asked about meetings with Mr. Massaquoi. The first meeting took place on 31 January 2002. The Witness said they covered the same issues as in the previous meetings, and also went into more detail about the history of the war and information about the people involved in the atrocities committed during the Sierra Leonean civil war. The next meeting took place on 18 July 2002, in Freetown. They discussed more about the history of the war, atrocities, command structures, ceasefire violations and so on, as well as the political wing of the RUF. The Witness did not recall discussing Mr Massaquoi’s political ambitions. Rather, they discussed the general dynamics of the evolution of the RUF into a political party. She added that, generally, the discussions were about responsibility for atrocities and command structure. The following meeting took place in August 2002, the Witness didn’t recall the date and she did not have any notes. She said they tried to introduce Mr Massaquoi to the Chief investigator and other officials of the UN investigation into the civil war in Sierra Leone. In addition to the Witness and the defendant, FNM-201 was also present at the meeting. Asked who suggested this meeting, the Witness first recalled that the Special Court had been established by the decision of the UN and the government of Sierra Leone. She explained that given the complexity of the case, insiders were essential to establish the chain of command and for the investigation and prosecution. As a researcher, she believed it was part of her work to advise the Special Court on certain historical elements of the war, and she wanted to provide input to who should later be prosecuted. For her part, she documented many atrocities committed by both sides of the war, but she was unclear on issues of command responsibility. The Witness said that her discussion with Mr. Massaquoi had clarified this for her. She also said that she thought he might be interested in meeting and discussing command structure issues. The Witness met officials from the Office of the Prosecutor and referred to Massaquoi as someone to help them to contact someone who could help their investigations. The Witness met FNM-201 and FNM-230 in August to discuss the matter. It was in this context that Mr Massaquoi was introduced to FNM-201. The Witness said that the meeting took place on an afternoon in August. She added that she had met Mr Massaquoi on another occasion in September at the Cape Sierra Hotel in Freetown. The focus of this meeting was “almost exclusively” on the command structure, the RUF and the AFRC at the time of the temporary jurisdiction. The Witness said that she had not asked how the meeting with FNM-201 had gone. She stated that it was her last meeting with the defendant. 

The Defense then asked the Witness whether she had worked for the Special Court at any time. She answered in the negative when she met Mr. Massaquoi. She then took a one-year leave of absence from HRW to work for the prosecutor’s office from August 2002 to August 2003. She did not learn that Mr. Massaquoi had signed a witness protection agreement with the Special Court until “much later”, while she was working for the Special Court. When questioned by the defense, the Witness replied that she knew that Mr. Massaquoi lived in a safe house and was protected. However, she did not know whether Mr. Massaquoi had the ability to leave the safe house and return. The Witness was asked about her knowledge of the Liberian civil war, in particular the years 2001-2002. She explained that she was hired in Sierra Leone but her job had to do with the Liberian civil war questions when the war broke out in 2000. The Witness conducted nine research missions on Liberia. She also conducted seven missions in 2001-2002 to Liberian refugee camps in eastern Sierra Leone. In March 2002, the witness travelled to Monrovia and Gbarnga to conduct research, and then travelled to Guinea in mid-2002 to conduct research in and around refugee camps in the forest region of Guinea. She explained that she spoke with 250 people who had knowledge of atrocities committed by all sides in the second Liberian civil war. In 2004, the Witness interviewed 64 army officials from different Western Africa troops, including members of the RUF.

The Witness stated that most of the testimonies she had collected referred to atrocities in Lofa County by government forces. The atrocities included massacres, rape, mutilation, destruction of property, etc. She had collected the names of villages and towns and provided them to the court and to the Finnish police. She started to read the names out loud: Kiantahun, Kamatahun, Sasahun, Yenahun, Popolahun, Belahun, Kalahun, Maiawyi usu, Kalahun, Lukasu, Vahun. The Witness explained that people were willing to talk about the atrocities, even if it was painful for them. She added that their freedom of speech was “greatly widened” by the fact that they were located in Sierra Leone and not Liberia. 

The Defense then asked the Witness to inform the court about specific cases and villages. The Witness began by stressing the importance of Lofa County as a strategic location for military operations. The atrocities followed a similar pattern: after government forces captured an area for the rebels, they would round up civilians and carry out atrocities on them. She explained that the majority of victims belonged to the ethnic group largely represented in the rebels troops. The government forces inflicted collective punishment on civilians who appeared to support the rebels. The atrocities committed included rape, beatings, killings, locking people in houses and burning them, etc. The Witness said that they had also documented atrocities committed by LURD, including abductions, rapes, looting, killings, etc. 

When asked about the villages of Kamatahun and Kiantahun, the witness said that out of all the 61 witnesses she interviewed about atrocities in Lofa county, she spoke to five witnesses who described atrocities in Kamatahun. They described an incident that allegedly took place between September and December 2001, in which Liberian forces captured people who were trying to flee the violence and took them to an area near Kamatahun. Many of those taken to Kamatahun were from Kiantahun. On the orders of a commander, they were taken to three houses – one witness said four houses – and burned alive. The Defense asked when the witnesses were interviewed. The Witness stated that the interviews about these villages took place between March and July 2002. A colleague of hers from HRW also recorded a testimony describing this particular incident in Kamatahun. 

The questioning turned back to general themes that came up in the Witness’ interviews of 61 witnesses who saw atrocities occur in Lofa county. The Witness said some names of commanders were mentioned during these general interviews. She indicated that five testimonies mentioned Zigzag Marzah as a commander. According to the Witness, this was an infamous commander, whose name was repeated several times. The other name mentioned was Soldier 7, a commander. Several lower ranking commanders were also mentioned by the 61 witnesses the Witness spoke with. The Witness indicated that she had written down the names. The Defense then asked whether there was an ‘Angel’ or ‘Angel Gabriel’ mentioned in these interviews that the Witness had conducted about atrocities in Lofa county. The Witness answered in the negative, also with regard to the name ‘Gibril Massaquoi’. When asked if she could recall anything specific that the commanders said or mentioned repeatedly to the soldiers or civilians, the Witness responded that they said that the civilians belonged to the Gbandi ethnic group, which they believed belonged to the rebels.

Referring to several organisations and officials interviewed by the Witness, the Defense asked whether any names of commanders had been mentioned. The Witness answered in the affirmative and explained that part of the human rights researcher’s job was to research command structures. She discussed this with local community organisations, as well as members of think tanks, diplomats, and refugee rights organisations. She clarified that the names previously mentioned by the Defense – ‘Angel Gabriel’ or ‘Gibril Massaquoi’ – had not been mentioned. The Defense asked whether there were any individuals or groups that would be depressed by the fact that Mr Massaquoi was able to enter the witness protection programme in Liberia. The Witness responded that she did not think so. The Defense then asked the Witness whether she thought Mr. Massaquoi could have gone to Monrovia in the summer of 2003, while he was under witness protection. She replied that she found it “highly unlikely”. She explained that that summer, Liberian rebels launched an offensive against Monrovia. Three offensives were launched, the first in early June, the second in late June and the third in July, which was known as “World War 3“. The Witness said that Mr. Massaquoi was working with the Special Court at the time as an insider witness, providing information on the command structure and against Charles Taylor. Since Taylor’s indictment was made public in June 2003, the Witness said it was unlikely that Mr. Massaquoi would have gone to Monrovia to fight on “the same side as the person who had just been indicted by the Special Court… helped by Massaquoi himself”. The Witness made one final point. She said it was believed that Charles Taylor had ordered the assassination of Sam Bockarie because he had given the Special Court information against him.

The Prosecution questions the Witness

The Prosecution began by asking the Witness about her first meeting with the defendant. In particular, they wanted to know why she could not name the other RUF member who was present. She replied that HRW’s work is based on the principle of confidentiality and that, as she had not asked this person if she could disclose their name, she could not do so. Her assistant explained that the Witness was referring to the First Amendment of the US Constitution – the journalist’s right to remain silent about his sources – and invoking all the other rights that go with it. The Prosecution responded that the person they were referring to was not a source, but was merely present. The Witness countered that the person was a source and a “high” member of the RUF. The Witness assistant indicated that the Witness was referring to her privilege to decline to answer this question.

With regard to the Special Court’s operations and the Witness’ previously mentioned opinions on who should have been prosecuted or not, the Prosecution asked why the Witness had stated that the prosecution of Mr. Massaquoi was unlikely. The Witness explained that the Special Court’s prosecution were structured to focus on those with major responsibility. She said that she had conducted extensive research into the cases dealt with by the Special Court and that as a result of her extensive research, the prosecutor had consulted her on who was worth prosecuting. The witness stated that she was “under absolutely no delusion that Mr. Massaquoi had been guilty of horrible abuses and that he represented an organization that was guilty of several horrible atrocities”. However, the Witness explained that his name was not as prominent as many other names in the documents she had compiled in her research. Knowing that the Special Court was only going to indict a small number of people, there were a number of other commanders with greater responsibility. The Witness said that it was never up to her to decide who should be charged and who should not. The Prosecution asked if the research the Witness was referring to was the same as the research she had mentioned to the Defense. The Witness replied that it was mainly the same, but that there were also some reports or publications on the civil war in Sierra Leone. 

The Witness said that in complicated conspiracy cases, it was very lucrative to have inside information. Asked whether inside information was particularly important in the Charles Taylor case, the Witness replied that it was not necessarily more important than in any other case. Under questioning by the Prosecution, the Witness explained that in several of her discussions with Mr. Massaquoi, he provided information about atrocities committed by other RUF members. She said he also mentioned atrocities committed by himself, and that this was in Sierra Leone. When the Prosecution asked for more details, the Witness replied that Mr. Massaquoi did not go into detail. Instead, he had told her in detail about his diamond business and his actions in the early 1990s. The Prosecution then asked how the Witness ensured that the information provided by Mr. Massaquoi was correct. The Witness replied that in the course of her work she had spoken to a very large number of people and that she never took individual stories at face value. She stated that the information she had obtained was the result of all the information she had gathered from a number of pieces that had been brought to her by different people. She went on to say that she had consulted several people before she suggested to FNM-201[KP8]  that Mr Massaquoi could be a potential insider. She also suggested “very strongly” to FNM-201[KP9]  that he should conduct his own research on these matters to ensure that his information would be reliable.

The Witness did not know whether the Special Court had tried to find out whether the information provided by Mr. Massaquoi was credible. She also did not know what the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission had said about Mr. Massaquoi’s testimonies. The Prosecution asked whether the witness recalled that the commission had stated that the commission itself had strong reservations about Mr Massaquoi’s testimony because he downplayed his role in the war. The Witness answered in the negative and said it was twenty years ago. She clarified that she had no doubt that the defendant had been associated with brutal atrocities and represented a horrible organisation guilty of serious atrocities. 

When asked by the Prosecution, the Witness indicated that she did not visit Lofa personally. The Prosecution asked how she knew that “Sise Masa” is “Joseph Marzah”. The Witness explained that the witnesses all identified commander Zigzag Marzah as being present. She specified that he was named both by victims and witnesses. She further explained that it was only later that she learned his real name as he testified at the special court. At the time of the interview, she did not know his real name. He was described as Liberian from the Gian ethnic group, and a former bodyguard of Benjamin Yeaten. Asked whether there were similar cases where witnesses gave a name and it was only discovered later who they were referring to, she explained that many witnesses referred to the war names of commanders. The Prosecution noted that the Witness had indicated that the “Angel Gabriel” in his various forms of Gibril Massaquoi had not been mentioned during these interviews, and the Prosecution also noted that HRW had refused to hand over the notes of these interviews. The Witness’s assistant replied that HRW had refused to release the notes, citing reporters’ privilege and other privileges under the US Constitution. The Prosecution then asked how the Court could ascertain the accuracy of this information and what questions had been asked of the witnesses. The Witness replied that she was not a “bookkeeper”. She said that she could provide information on the methods she had followed in her research. She explained that she had asked the witnesses what had happened. She asked when, where, why, etc. The Witness added that she had reread her notes and the testimony before being heard by this court. She explained that the list of names she provided to the Finnish police mentioned Zigzag Marzah several times, as well as Soldier 7. The Witness said that she also spoke to about 12 former soldiers who also mentioned Zigzag Marzah. She said that if a perpetrator’s name did not come up naturally, they always asked if the witness was able to name someone. She noted that in the case of Liberia, many were willing to disclose these names. Asked by the Prosecution, the Witness stated that the former soldiers she had mentioned represented several groups: RUF, AFRC, ATU, SSS, Navy Division, Army Division, and a few others. There were also the LURDs and the MODEL. She specified that five of the soldiers had fought for Zigzag Marzah, they belonged to armed forces and to the Navy Division in Liberia. 

Returning to the subject of insider witnesses, the Prosecution asked whether HRW or the Special Court had any guidelines on how to treat insider witnesses, when the Witness met with Massaquoi and presented him to the Special Court. The Witness said she was “not really handling it” because she merely made an introduction, and that it did not concern HRW and she did not know whether the Special Court had such guidelines. She assumed that special arrangements were managed by the Witness Protection Unit, but she did not know more. Asked who at the Special Court was in contact with Mr Massaquoi and handling the case, the Witness replied that she thought it was FNM-201 but reiterated that she had not been given “any of that information”. She indicated that FNM-201 was based in Freetown from August 2002, but travelled occasionally out of town or out of the country, but not very often. The Prosecution referred to a question of the Defense where the Witness had stated that it was highly unlikely that Mr Massquoi would have travelled to Liberia in the summer of 2003. The Prosecution asked whether the Witness knew whether, at that time, Charles Taylor was actually aware of the charges against him. The Witness said she thought that, “to the best of [her] knowledge, Taylor was indicted in March 2003 and the indictment was unsealed in June 2003, while Taylor was in Ghana”. The prosecution then asked the witness whether Mr Massaquoi had testified against Charles Taylor. She replied that she did not know which case it was. She said it was possible that Mr Massaquoi had never testified against Taylor. She said it was Mr. Massaquoi who was providing inside information on command structures. The Witness added that it was general knowledge that the defendant had vanished at the time, but said it was only speculation. 

The Defense questions the Witness further

The Defense asked whether the Witness knew whether Mr. Massaquoi had made a statement for the Special Court regarding Taylor. The Witness replied that she did not know. The Defense then refers to documentary evidence No. 84 which mentions a mass murder in Kamatahun. Commander “Zizamaza” is mentioned in the document. The Defence asked whether the Witness knew who this person was. She replied that it was the same commander that all the witnesses mentioned many times.  The Defence then explained that it had also heard of ‘Zigzag Marzah’ and wondered if it was the same person. The Witness answered in the affirmative. Turning to her last question, the Defense referred to the Witness’ meeting with Mr. Massaquoi in Makeni. The Defense asked whether she recalled any journalists meeting Mr. Massaquoi in Makeni or in Freetown. She replied that Mr. Massaquoi had been interviewed in Makeni both times. The interviews took place a week before April 9th and a week before May 29th in 2001. She met the journalists on each occasion a week after they had interviewed Mr Massaquoi. 

The hearing concluded.

Leave a Reply

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