The 61st day of public hearings resumed on Friday, 21st January in Finland.
The Prosecution Presents their Closing Arguments
The Prosecution began by addressing the legal basis of the Indictment since it was put in question by the Defendant in December.
The charges of murder and rape were based on the Criminal Code of Finland, Chapter 1, Section 6, paragraph 1 (3) and Section 11, paragraph 1. Both murder and rape were also punishable in Liberia at the time of the events, according to a Liberian report. The principle of double criminality was therefore fulfilled, both according to the Liberian and Finnish legislation.
Aggravated war crimes and aggravated crimes against humanity are internationally punishable crimes and the principle of double criminality was not applicable. The legislation regulating war crimes also applies to internal conflicts within a state if they escalate into a war, which was the case in Liberia at the time.
The Prosecutor dismissed the Defendant’s argument that the principle of legality prevented the application of the characteristics of a crime against humanity to the acts he was accused of. The Prosecutor said that national provisions on crimes against humanity were derived from relevant international conventions which clearly penalize the acts in the indictment. It was also clear that when such acts were committed on such a scale, they not only violated their direct victims, but they violated humanity in a wider sense.
The Prosecutors’ timeframe estimates were based on the witness testimonies during the trial, and they specifically referred to count 4.1 of the indictment.
The Prosecutors began by addressing the murders in Kamatahun Hassala, which took place in the period between 07/01/1999 and 18/08/2003, and most likely took place between 01/03/2001 and 31/09/2001.
Most of the witness testimony placed the incidents in the beginning of 2001, during the dry season, or in August 2001. For example, Civilian 50 testified that the incidents happened on 01/04/2004 and 13/08/2001. He remembered the latter date because he wrote it on the wall when around 70 civilians were taken to Kamatahun and burned. Civilian 45 also spoke of the beginning of the year in 2001, during the dry season. Civilian 22 spoke of April or May during seedtime.
None of the witnesses testified that the incidents took place during the rainy season.
As reflected in the Annex of the revised indictment, the incidents in Kamatahun Hassala most likely took place between 01/03/2001 and 31/09/2001.
2.2 People were brought to Kamatahun Hassala from different villages.
Multiple witnesses described the same incident of people being brought to Kamatahun from the surrounding villages and woods. For instance, Civilian 50 attested that on 13/08/2001, soldiers arrested him and his friends and forced them to walk to Kamatahun. Civilian 70 talked about villages from which people were captured and taken to Kamatahun Hassala.
When the soldiers arrived in the villages, they pillaged and burned houses. For example, Civilian 27 said that soldiers set his father’s house on fire. People were assaulted, hit, tortured, and, in Kamatahun Hassala, killed. When the RUF soldiers arrived in Kamatahun Hassala, they accused the villagers of being spies for the LURD, following which they captured and tortured civilians.
2.3. Gibril Massaquoi gave the order to burn people in a house in Kamatahun Hassala
Multiple witnesses confirmed that they heard the RUF commander and other soldiers address a commander named Angel Gabriel, General Massaquoi, or Gibril Massaquoi, who gave the order to put people into a house and burn them.
It was indisputable that people were taken into houses and burnt alive, as confirmed by both civilian and soldier witnesses. The estimations of the number of people who were burned alive in Kamatahun varied, which the Prosecutor said was understandable. After all, the numbers represented each witnesses’ own estimates of an incident that happened 20 years ago. One witness said around 35, another 50 and one person did not want to give a number but said “many.” It could be noted that among the names in the written evidence S7, the list of names provided by the Civilian 50, and those in the written evidence S6, an article, there are 15 names in common.
The Prosecutor said that it was beyond doubt that the incident occurred, and there was no need to question the identity of the victims.
2.4. Gibril Massaquoi gave the order to trap children in the central kitchen of Kamatahun Hassala, the “cook shop,” and set it on fire.
Civilian 22 introduced the term the “cook shop”. He explained that there were two incidents in Kamatahun Hassala when people were burnt alive. One was when adults were gathered in a house which was then set on fire. The other one was when Angel Gabriel put children, who were between 5 and 7 years old, into the cook shop and set it on fire. While at this time multiple commanders operated in Kamatahun Hassala, it was Angel Gabriel who ordered the children into the kitchen and set it on fire. The children were all under 10 years old.
2.5. At least seven women were killed after they had been raped, ordered by Massaquoi.
At least seven people testified that seven women were taken behind the so-called Blacksmith Kitchen, where they were raped and killed.
Civilian 70 personally saw the women being taken, and one of them was his wife. He saw the corpses the following day. Civilian 40 testified that Angel Gabriel gave the order to tie the women and take them to the kitchen. The next day he saw them dead. Some of the witnesses said that the women were explicitly killed later. Those who witnessed the bodies of the raped women recounted that some bodies had knife marks and others had been hit.
Of the seven witnesses who described this incident, four explicitly said that commander Gabriel gave the order to take the women into the kitchen. Moreover, some said that Angel Gabriel gave the order to rape the women and two saw Angel Gabriel, himself, enter the building where the women were being raped.
2.6 The witnesses described the locations of the burnt house in Kamatahun Hassala and the Black Smith Kitchen.
The Prosecution said there was no reason to doubt that the incidents happened as described by the witnesses. Even though there were slight inconsistencies on, for example, the location of the crimes, it could be concluded from the testimonies that they were referring to the same places and buildings. The detailed descriptions of the incidents and their perpetrators indicated that the witnesses were credible.
3. The Murder of [FNM-162].
The Prosecution referred to the murder of [FNM-162] under count 4.2 in the indictment which took place between 07/01/1999 and 18/08/2003, but most likely between 01/03/2001 and 31/09/2001.
Civilian 14 attested that he was present when the government troops returned to Kamatahun and in this time the RUF came from Sierra Leone to help them. Among them was a commander they called Angel Gabriel. This witness stated that Angel Gabriel killed his sister [FNM-162] in their house in Yandehun. Angel Gabriel took [FNM-162] initially as his “wife” in Kamatahun Hassala and later killed her in Yandehun. She was killed with a knife.
The Prosecution said that there had been no reason put forward to put this testimony in doubt nor to question the veracity of the incident.
4. The Murders in Monrovia
The Prosecution referred to count 4.3 in the Indictment. The incidents occurred between 07/01/1999 and 18/08/2003, but most likely between 01/05/2003 and 18/08/2003.
The witnesses generally struggled with remembering the dates of the events in Monrovia. The Prosecution said it could safely be stated that many RUF fighters fought in Monrovia against the LURD between June and August of 2003, during the so-called “World Wars 1-3.” The expert witness Käihkö confirmed that the world wars took place in 2003. Many witnesses told their personal views and gave dates based on their own recollection.
Regarding the RUF troops who fought in Monrovia, seven former Liberian soldiers referred to the fighters from Sierra Leone as “Agbah.” Five of these former soldiers were certain that the “Agbah” group was under Gibril Massaquoi’s or Angel Gabriel’s command. Many witnesses testified that the E. J. Roy building was Gibril Massaquoi’s base of operations.
With respect to who ordered the acts charged as crimes under the indictment that were committed in Waterside, multiple witnesses and former fighters testified that commander Angel Gabriel, speaking with a Sierra Leonean accent, committed or gave orders to commit them in Waterside. 18 civilians testified to that effect. Moreover, some witnesses, including 4 soldiers, mentioned only Gibril Massaquoi, and gave no other names for the perpetrator.
According to several witnesses the incidents at the Waterside took place during the continuous fighting in Monrovia when the city was experiencing food shortages. For instance, Civilian 46 explained that people robbed shops because it was hard to find food, and Civilian 05 described the situation as difficult for many civilians because there was no food available. Many testified to going to the city and seeing shops raided, and many mentioned the Biscuit Store, from which people stole food and other things. At some point, Gibril Massaquoi and other soldiers arrived and started shooting. The soldiers also took the civilians to the military checkpoint at the “Old Bridge”.
It is noteworthy that many witnesses mentioned the same details in their descriptions. Many reported that they were tied up when they were caught by the soldiers and taken to the checkpoint. Many saw corpses around the checkpoint and under the bridge. As was stated in the indictment, the witnesses described how civilians were shot in the Waterside marketplace, as well as at the bridge checkpoint.
Many people testified that it was a person named Gibril Massaquoi or Angel Gabriel who personally killed people. Some did not see him personally killing individuals but stated that he gave orders to the soldiers to kill people. For example, Civilian 31 saw Angel Gabriel kill two boys. Civilian 73 heard that the man who was killing people was addressed as Angel Gabriel. Civilian 05 said that Angel Gabriel ordered his soldiers to bring him a bowl and put a man’s head under a stone and cut his throat open. Soldier 01 saw Gibril Massaquoi shoot civilians and soldiers who were looting the shops. Many others did not witness these incidents themselves but heard that Gibril Massaquoi ordered the killing of civilians in Waterside.
Witnesses, primarily former soldiers, were also heard to talk about Gibril Massaquoi’s role in the so-called “99-Steps” incident. They testified that Gibril Massaquoi accused both civilians and soldiers of being thieves and shot them. Gibril Massaquoi was both killing and giving orders to kill the captured civilians.
5. Aggravated Rapes in Kamatahun Hassala and Foya
According to witness accounts, people were taken to a house behind a blacksmith’s workshop where they were raped. This related to count 11 of the Indictment. This event likely happened in 2001, when the fighting was intense. After that, Civilian 11 said that he was forced to go with them, and he was taken from his home village.
6. Aggravated War Crimes
The Prosecution said that all the charges that had been mentioned, as well as others, amounted to aggravated war crimes because of what had been discussed about the murders and aggravated rapes in the Indictment counts 4.1 – 4.4. The evidence for those crimes had already been discussed.
The act that was not yet explicitly mentioned was the rape covered under the Indictment count 220.127.116.11 (iii) (of Civilian 28). In Old Bridge, Waterside, Civilian 28 said that one soldier raped her in Gibril Massaquoi’s base. The civilian asked Massaquoi for help, but he did not do anything to prevent the rape.
When the government and RUF soldiers were walking through the rainforests of Lofa looking for people who were hiding, some of the people they found were forced to carry stolen property and soldiers’ equipment (according to civilians 18, 27, 35, 40, 45, 50 and 70). Forced labour is criminalized by the established and generally approved war rules.
Violation of Deceased Peoples’ Dignity
Next was the violation of the deceased people’s dignity that had not been progressed and the inappropriate treatment of the bodies in count 4.5.5 of the Indictment.
The description of the act had been amended in the Indictment, namely that Gibril himself eating the food made of human remains has been removed. The witnesses (civilians 35, 40 and 70) had not testified to this before the District Court. But they did, however, testify that Gibril ordered the soldiers under his command to prepare food made from deceased people and to eat it.
Torture in Count 4.5.6. of the Indictment ([GJRP-1])
According to [GJRP-1]’s account before the District Court, Massaquoi tortured him probably on 26/07/2002 in Kaya, Liberia at the local police building and Massaquoi ordered a woman who was present then to apply the electric shocks to his genitals. Massaquoi also hit [GJRP-1] with a stick. It was removed from the charge description that Massaquoi applied the electric shocks himself.
Massaquoi claimed that [GJRP-1]’s account is not credible primarily because according to notes from the SCSL, [GJRP-1] did not mention Gibril nor the woman in his interview on 18/08/2008.
In addition, Massaquoi claimed that he could not have been in Kaya, Liberia on 26/07/2002 because he got married in Freetown that day.
When assessing Massaquoi’s claims, it must be remembered that [GJRP-1] justified the inconsistencies in his account by reasonable explanations that are related to the sensitivity inherent in this instance of torture. [GJRP-1] explained that he was ashamed that his genitals were touched. He also had talked about the SS men who were subordinated to Benjamin Yeaten, a group to which Massaquoi also belonged. In [GJRP-1]’s hearing on 04/10/2021, the Defense brought up that [GJRP-1] had indeed mentioned Gibril at Charles Taylor’s trial.
The date of Gibril’s marriage served as his alibi. This claim stems from Massaquoi’s ex-wife’s testimony that they got married on 26/07/2002. After that the Prosecution obtained written proof that this claim was inaccurate. When documentary evidence was handled the last time before the court, the Defence conceded that it was not clear whether they got married on 26/07/2002 or not. Thus, the alibi of the marriage has not been proven credible enough. Furthermore, although [GJRP-1] was better educated or experienced with criminal trials it did not exclude the possibility that he, like the others, may have misremembered events or misjudged which details are meaningful when he was testifying for the first time.
The count of torture also included the aggravated assault of Civilian 64 and the assault of Civilian 35 in the Indictment count 4.5.7. The aggravated assault was described by Civilian 64 to the District Court. Namely, Massaquoi ordered the soldiers under his command to imprison Civilian 64, and after that one of the soldiers struck him with a knife to the left eye causing blindness to that eye. Civilian 35 testified before the District Court that Massaquoi tied his leg between two boards and ordered a soldier who was under his command to stand on that leg. This was a type of local torture. In addition, Civilian 35 testified that Massaquoi ordered him to open his mouth and then urinated in his mouth.
7. Aggravated Crimes Against Humanity
Count 18 of the indictment, aggravated crimes against humanity, brought together all the previously described crimes. The extremely cruel crimes that were attributed to Massaquoi have caused at least tens of people physical and mental pain and suffering. To the direct victims these crimes have caused unimaginable mental and physical suffering and damage to their families and relatives. Massaquoi’s crimes could thus be described as wide in scope and serious. Through his responsibility for these crimes, Massaquoi had systematically and seriously violated international law.
Due to the mutual relationship between these crimes, it was appropriate to address the question of the accumulation of the law. The question was should the murders and aggravated rapes that Gibril had been charged with be assessed comprehensively by the basic elements of the crime of murder or rape. There was no judicial precedent in Finland pointing to the mutual relationship of these crimes. The Prosecution proceeded to illustrate by example of a serious traffic accident which resulted in death. In that case the Prosecution submitted that the relevant provisions on negligent homicide apply, not only of the negligent creation of a traffic hazard. While more abstract, in this case, the concept was similar. Namely, murder and aggravated rape were not assessed comprehensively according to the basic elements of murder and rape because those did not take into account the fact that these crimes targeted people who were protected by the generally acknowledged and established rules of war.
The Prosecution presented their commentary on the safehouse. It was undisputed that Massaquoi had been in a safehouse in Freetown and lived there. Massaquoi maintained that it was not possible for him to leave the safehouse in Freetown, where he lived with his family after 10/03/2003. He, accordingly, could not have committed the acts in Monrovia between 01/05/2003 – 18/08/2003, as charged in the indictment. At first, the argument seemed plausible, but when further evidence was presented, this outlook changed. One of the witnesses stated that there were safety shortcomings in the first two safehouses where Gibril and his family stayed. The security situation improved when he and the family were relocated following the attack on the second safe house in July 2005. The Defense said in court on 14/01/2022 that the safehouse was not a prison, but that it was for the safety of Massaquoi’s family. The intention was not to keep Massaquoi locked up without a choice.
The fact was that 29 witnesses testified that Gibril Massaquoi or Angel Gabriel, an individual speaking Krio, Mende or English with a Sierra Leonean accent, was involved in the crimes in Waterside, Monrovia. The Prosecution posed the rhetorical question; did all 29 witnesses lie? The Prosecution’s answer was that they did not. The security arrangements in the safehouse were such that Massaquoi could leave. This position was supported by the details regarding the attack on the safe house. There were important differences between the written report whereby Gibril escaped with his children by jumping over the wall and other witness’ stories whereby the attackers came over the wall. One witness stated that the attackers entered because the access port was left open. Now, the Court had to assess whether Massaquoi’s testimony was solid enough to stand against the testimonies of 29 witnesses. This issue would be addressed again later.
9. Angel Gabriel = Gibril Massaquoi
As this subject had already been discussed at various points, it would be addressed succinctly. The Court had heard multiple former soldiers and Defense witnesses, who said that Angel Gabriel was the Defendant’s nickname or combat name. Multiple witnesses had confirmed that the commander present during the events covered by the indictment was Angel Gabriel, including soldier 09, soldier 01, and soldier 37. Also, according to multiple witnesses, Massaquoi or Angel Gabriel spoke Krio, Mende, or English not with a Liberian accent, but with a Sierra Leonean accent. As for the Angel Gabriel nickname, there was no other commander with such a name who fought in Liberia. Many witnesses had also recognised Massaquoi from pictures. There was no doubt that all the witnesses were referring to one and the same person.
10. Statements made by Massaquoi
The Prosecution turned to the indictment count 24.
Firstly, the Defendant had stated that he and the RUF were in Liberia to promote peace. This statement was disproven in the hearing on 17/11/2021. The RUF always went to Liberia to fight when they were needed. The RUF formed part of Charles Taylor’s government troops in Liberia.
The Defendant had stated that he was not in Liberia at the time of the incidents charged under the indictment. This was proved wrong for the time-period between 01/03/2001 and July 2003 during the hearing on 17/11/2021. 29 witnesses had testified that Gibril Massaquoi or Angel Gabriel who spoke Krio, Mende, or English with a Sierra Leonean accent took part in the crimes committed at Waterside, Monrovia.
The Defense had also stated that the pre-trial investigation was unlawful, because [Employee 1] conducted pre-interviews during which he promised financial benefits and “put” Gibril’s name into the descriptions of the witnesses. The Prosecution said that without [Employee 1], the Finnish would not have been able to form confidential bonds with and spoken with the witnesses. The war was a very sensitive subject in Liberia and people preferred not to speak about it. When [Employee 1] was heard last week, it was confirmed that he did not conduct pre-interviews for Civitas Maxima or later, for the NBI. When he did so, it was before his work with the NBI. Civitas Maxima’s mission is to search for persons with knowledge of the war and to hold responsible those who are accused. [Employee 1] stated that he did not even use the form provided by GJRP.
A lot had been said about what [Employee 1] discussed with the witnesses. 35 witnesses said that [Employee 1] told them that someone/white people wanted to speak with them. 6 witnesses said that they never heard of Albert [Employee 1]. Civilian 35 said in the pre-trial investigations that [Employee 1] promised him a grant if he came to Monrovia. Before the District Court the same witness stated that he never really expected a grant. Civilian 64, soldier 04 and witness Y7 stated that [Employee 1] did not mention Massaquoi to them. Civilian 64 said that he and [Employee 1] knew each other already during the war and already discussed then the events at Waterside and Massaquoi. Both knew that Massaquoi was part of what Civilian 64 described as his experiences in the war. Soldier 04 stated that [Employee 1] had called him after [Soldier 07] gave him the number. [Employee 1], then said that he called because he was collecting information on the incidents at Waterside and of 99 Steps. Witness Y7 said that [Employee 1] asked on the phone if he knew general Massaquoi. The witness answered that Gibril Massaquoi was better known as Angel Gabriel. So, there was no mention of Gibril Massaquoi’s name to neither soldier 04 nor to witness Y7.
The Prosecution said that the Defense’s claim that [Employee 1]’s actions influenced the descriptions of the prosecution’s witnesses in comparison to the pre-trial investigations with respect to the dates of the Waterside incidents was unfounded. [Employee 1]’s task, while working for the NBI, was also to find new witnesses that were named on 01/07/2021. These new witnesses consistently held that the incidents at Waterside happened during the summer of 2003.
The Prosecution added that should the court find that Massaquoi’s name had been suggested to the soldier 04 and witness Y7 it should only be considered in relation to these two witnesses. It would not have meant that [Employee 1] unintentionally planted Gibril Massaquoi’s name for all witnesses.
With respect to Defense’s argument that [Employee 1] affected the testimonies of the witnesses the Prosecution maintained that [Employee 1] was not involved in the pre-trial investigations and could not know what the witnesses said. Furthermore, all the trial material was in Finnish, and he did not speak the language.
[Employee 1] had stated that he did not know which of the witnesses were for the Prosecution and which for the Defense. He treated them all the same.
The Prosecution addressed the proposition from the Defense that [Employee 1] influenced the descriptions of the events because some of the Prosecution witnesses who had been heard during pre-trial investigation on the events at Waterside stated that the incidents happened in 2003 and referred to the world wars. In court they stated that the incidents took place in 2001 and 2002. The Defense had concluded that [Employee 1] must have influenced the witnesses because Gibril Massaquoi was in the safehouse in 2003. The Prosecution reminded the court of the fact that [Employee 1] also worked with the NBI on finding new witnesses, named on 01/07/2021, and that those witnesses had consistently stated that Waterside happened in 2003. The Prosecution asked the rhetorical question: why would [Employee 1] not then influence these witnesses if he influenced the others?
The Prosecution added that not all of the prosecution’s witnesses were found by [Employee 1]. The Court heard from the witnesses whom he did not find, nor meet. For example, witness X8 said to the NBI at the end of the last trip to Liberia that he heard a show on the radio where they spoke of the trial after which he contacted the NBI. When the NBI visited the village of Kiantahun for the first time, members of the Finnish Police spoke to several people who certainly had not spoken with [Employee 1] previously. For instance, Civilian 27.
The Prosecution next addressed the Defense’s claim that [Employee 1] or somebody else affected the “identification percentage” of the witnesses to rise almost to one hundred. This statement did not take into account the circumstances in which witnesses testified about Massaquoi and whether witnesses already knew Massaquoi. The ability of witnesses to make remarks on Gibril’s appearance after 20 years depended on whether they had met or seen him before. The situations could vary. The Prosecution reminded the Court that 51 witnesses had said that Gibril or Angel Gabriel was a RUF commander who spoke Krio, Mende or English with a Sierra Leonian accent. 28 witnesses had said that Gibril or Angel Gabriel uttered a special phrase before he killed people, along the lines of telling victims that he would send them to God. The Prosecution asked how the witnesses could have known this if they had not heard it themselves.
Next, the Prosecution addressed the claim that witnesses were lying because [GJRP-1] trained them to tell a false story and promised benefits. To support this claim the Defense had relied on the testimony of witnesses L1-L4. L1 said that [GJRP-1] asked him to testify that Gibril came to Lofa, where he committed rape and many other things. L2 said that [GJRP-1] asked whether he could testify against Alieu Kosiah, Issa Kobabhia and Yusuf Massaquoi. L2 said he refused because he did not know them. L3 stated that [GJRP-1] asked whether he could testify against the Defendant. L3 did not know the Defendant and said that [GJRP-1] did not specify what L3 should testify about. L4 asserted that [GJRP-1] had asked whether he knew the Defendant.
When assessing the credibility of these testimonies it needed to be noted that the trials of Alieu Kosiah and Issa Kobabhia were completed when [GJRP-1] reportedly asked L2 to testify against them. Also, the witnesses knew one another well, L1 and L2 were brothers and all the witnesses said that they had discussed [GJRP-1] among them. The Prosecution said that if a person asks another to testify against somebody, whom they do not know, it does not mean that the person who asked implicitly expects that the person, who would testify, to lie about a given person. Another witness’ description had proven L1’s statements to be untruthful.
It was undisputable that [GJRP-1]’s job was to find witnesses for war crime processes. If [GJRP-1] had asked someone whether they wanted to testify about someone else it could not be interpreted, on its own, as [GJRP-1] asking them to lie, as two witnesses had suggested. The benefits that [GJRP-1] had allegedly promised were monumental. They were equivalent to one month of GJRP’s functional budget which also brought into question whether [GJRP-1] had actually promised US $20,000 and asylum, knowing he could not fulfil those promises.
11. Evaluation of evidence
The Prosecution likened the assessment of evidence and witnesses in this case to the Rwanda case, where witnesses were assessed individually and as a whole. There were situations when one witness account, isolated from the other testimonies, could be valued as credible and when it was compared to the whole, the situation could change, or vice versa. When oral evidence was considered, the starting point was the account given before the Court. There could be situations, in which there was reference material, where the difference could be detected by comparing the materials. This had happened in this case, too. The witness accounts could seem confusing at times, maybe even absurd, but from them the Court needed to try to find the thread of what the witness might have meant. When the Court looked for that thread, they needed to keep in mind that unfortunately 20 years had passed since the events. As the expert witness Korkman explained in her statement, a human mind works in such a way that when some memories are suddenly reactivated, they are not always the right ones, and they get clearer when you leave the situation and try to remember it again. Korkman´s statement confirmed that memories can change from information that has been obtained from other sources, for example, the witnesses changing their account of the Waterside events. One explanation could be that someone has said it was not 2003, but 2001 – 2002, and that spread in a close-knit community where the witnesses lived, and people became uncertain if it really was 2003. It did not necessarily mean that [Employee 1] or anyone else had instructed a change of the account.
In the court hearings, when the witnesses were being questioned, the witnesses received one specific question after another. It was clear that witnesses became uncertain in those situations which could lead to differences between the accounts given during the trial and the preliminary investigation interviews. Before the differences appeared, the Court needed to ask if they were related to relevant or irrelevant facts of the main hearing. Korkman stated that it was too absolute to think of preliminary investigation interviews as the starting point, and any deviations from those as proof of dishonesty or lack of credibility. As many witnesses had said, it was difficult to remember everything that happened 20 years ago. The Court could not over- or underestimate the ability of people to remember events. People remembered things in a different way. One must not think that the fact that events occurred 20 years ago meant that witnesses could not remember anything or that their accounts could not be true. A different background did not mean a larger tendency to dishonesty. The Court could not think that if people come from Liberia, that they are willing to lie about anything. It was not easy to assess these accounts, specifically in this case, but an effort needed to be made.
In the judgment of the Court of Appeal in the Rwanda case, the Court stated, in the same way as the District Court, that the way that Rwandans gave accounts was influenced by the witnesses noticing the purpose of the questions, but a general comment on their credibility could not be made. This element was related to culture and may have affected the witness accounts, but the Prosecution and the Court could not make a general conclusion from it. Rather, the element needed to be assessed with every witness and the question asked: was this witness saying what the person questioning them wanted to hear, or what really happened?
Korkman wrote in her statement that if people were asked about a date, their answer would be based on a guess, and if the question were presented in a different situation, the valuation could differ. Topics that elicit emotions were remembered more readily than the those that were less meaningful.
62 witnesses had stated in this case that Gibril Massaquoi or Angel Gabriel committed the crimes listed in the indictment. The Prosecution reminded the Court that 51 witnesses had testified to how Gibril Massaquoi or Angel Gabriel spoke. 28 of the 62 said that Gibril Massaquoi or Angel Gabriel had a special saying before he killed a person. None of Prosecution’s witnesses had said that there could have been another RUF commander. Somebody mentioned a fighter but that is different to a commander.
The Prosecution’s position was that the Defendant had not shown credible evidence of how all 62 witnesses could have come together to accuse the Defendant with such detailed and personal statements. The descriptions of the witnesses had common features but also features that distinguished them from one another. It would have taken quite a writer to bring together 62 people and plot against the Defendant in this way.
The Defendant had not presented credible evidence of why 62 witnesses would have conspired to accuse him of false accusations. That [Employee 1] had allegedly ordered or asked them to do it was not a sufficient reason. Take for example L1 and L5, who accused [GJRP-1] of ordering or asking them to lie in court. They stated that they would not testify about a person they didn’t know. There was no reason to suspect that Liberians are different from others with values and morals.
Finally, The Prosecution wanted to say that it was clear that the witnesses in this matter (regardless of whether they were for the Defence or the Prosecution) took a risk by testifying. Because of that, the District Court had decided or would decide to protect their identities. The witnesses came from countries where the chance of war was constant and if an individual said something wrong it would be avenged in some way. They faced a high threshold. The same went for Defence witnesses. The risk takers have had to revisit old and traumatic experiences; the testifying had not been easy. The witnesses, and especially those who had been victims of Gibril Massaquoi, deserved their accounts being brought to the forefront, and deserved that their backgrounds, and the claims designed to undermine their testimonies, be assessed objectively.