13/09/21 [Liberia] Day 43: New Prosecution Witnesses
The 43rd day of public hearings resumed on Monday, 13ème September in Monrovia, Liberia. Two prosecution witnesses were heard.
Witness X2 is Heard
The Prosecution questions Witness X2
The Prosecution opened by asking the Witness about his experience of the war. The Witness said that in 2002/2003, in June and July, he was based in Monrovia, in the Waterside area. He explained that at the time the war was intense and Waterside was the frontline. The government was defending the two bridges – Old Bridge and Gabriel Tucker Bridge – to prevent the rebels from crossing, and ‘harming civilians’. He described how different units of soldiers were stationed there, commanded by General 50. Other groups were also present: Save Our Day (SOD), whose commander was Tony Montana; the Jungle Fire group with General I-Mean-It; The MoD group with Colonel Weebagee. The E. J. Roye Building was controlled by [FNM-129] and the Strike Force Marine. The Gabriel Tucker Bridge was under the control of General Sharay. The Witness also mentioned a group President Taylor had brought from Sierra Leone that was called ‘Agbah’. The group included General Yanne – who was controlling the BZT – General Salome and “Angel Gabriel”, whose other name was Gibril Massaquoi. The Prosecution asked him how knew those names, and Witness X2 answered that they were in the war together, and while he hadn’t gone into battle directly with them, he did see them on several occasions at Waterside. When asked to specify, the Witness explained that these people prevented civilians from looting and also carried out general attacks. Some of the soldiers were peaceful, others used violence when preventing the civilians to loot.
When asked whether he had witnessed the use of violence to prevent looting, the Witness answered in the affirmative. He described one occurrence in August 2003, when civilians and soldiers were looting a biscuit store close to the Old Bridge. The Witness explained that the government forces arrived and opened “suppressive fire” which injured and killed people. The remaining people were then locked up in the store. The Witness clarified that the biscuit store was located on the road “straight towards Johansen around the Mechlin Street intersection from the Old Bridge”. He also specified that the commander of the government forces was General Senegalese, and that he was the only one he remembered, because it was night time. When the Prosecution asked if the Witness had been nearby at the time of the incident, and if he had seen any similar occurrences in Waterside, the Witness responded that ‘he was there’, and then described an episode where soldiers were ambushed on the other side of the bridge; when they retreated, they brought the dead bodies to the civilians and forced them to bury them.
The Prosecution then questioned the Witness about the ‘Agbah’ group. The Witness said that he recognized their accent as Sierra Leonean. The Prosecution asked the Witness whether Angel Gabriel and Gabriel Massaquoi were the same person, and he answered in the affirmative. When asked to clarify, the Witness explained that he knew this based on the people Massaquoi was with, senior officers from the ATU. The Witness claimed to have met Massaquoi on two occasions in Waterside: the first time, Massaquoi was accompanied by soldiers from the ATU and ‘Agbah’, when the generals gathered to carry out a general attack. The Witness didn’t remember the month but the year was 2003. On the second occasion, the Witness saw Massaquoi during the looting that took place on Mechlin Street. The Witness explained that the first time he saw Massaquoi in Waterside was when “the war had come three times”: the first time the rebels stopped in Logan Town, the second time they came to Via Town and then left, the third time they came to Via Town and “didn’t go back”. The government controlled the two bridges and Central Monrovia and the rebels controlled Via Town to Bushrod Island. Then, the Witness explained, UNMIL arrived and the rebels crossed the bridge peacefully. They stated that they no longer wished to fight and that they wanted peace; the soldiers on both sides hugged each other as they “realize(d) that they are all brothers and sisters.” Civilians managed to leave central Monrovia and go across the bridge to find food. When asked about the timing of the events, the Witness said that WW1 and WW2 took place in June, and WW3 in July. It was during this last war that he saw Massaquoi.
The Prosecution returned to the looting episode on Mechlin Street, the second time the Witness had reported seeing Massaquoi. The Witness said that the generals ordered the soldiers to shoot civilians. He clarified that he did not see the shooting but that some soldiers who were at the scene came and told him about it. In response to Prosecutor’s questions on the episode, the Witness testified that he thought the biscuit store was looted for the first time and that he saw the civilians looting. During the incident, there was a lot of noise, people were shouting. The soldiers arrived and parked their vehicle in the dark; they then turned on the headlights and started shooting. The soldiers comprised different units – he remembered General Senegalese but said he did not see Massaquoi. When asked, the Witness said that the two times he saw Massaquoi, he did not hear him speak. He said he believed Massaquoi was a senior officer but did not know his exact rank. He did not know if he was in charge of any area in Waterside.
The Defense questions Witness X2
The Defense opened its questioning asking if he remembered when the Finnish police interviewed him; the Witness responded that it had been two months earlier. The Defense pointed out that the information available to them indicated that the interview had taken place in May, four months earlier. When asked to explain how he came into contact with the police the Witness explained that he was first contacted by [FNM-244] who then put him in touch with [Employee 1]. [FNM-244] was a friend of his, and had told him that [Employee 1] wanted to talk to him, as he was looking for people who had experienced the civil war. [Employee 1] then put him in contact with the police. When the Defense asked him for more details, the witness replied that [Employee 1] was looking for general information, not related to anything specific. He further stated that he did not discuss the war with [Employee 1]. The Defense pointed out that the police interview was about the ‘last civil war’ rather than the civil war in general – the Witness agreed, and explained that the last civil war was in 2003, consisting of three wars. He said that before he spoke to the police, he had no knowledge of the case in question. The Defense’s understanding was that the Witness did in fact know about the case before the interview; the Witness responded that he learned about it during the interview itself. A recording of the interview was then played by the court upon the Defense’s request.
In the recording, the Witness is first heard saying that he was ‘getting to know that there is a trial in Monrovia’, and then stated that he had ‘head about a trial’.
The Defense asked if the Witness remembered what he had responded when the police asked him why he “talked so much about Gibril Massaquoi”. The Witness remembered that he said “they were all mercenaries that were called upon to come and defend the state.»
The Defense returned on the topic of the three wars, and asked how long the peace lasted between each war. The Witness explained that WW1 lasted a week and then there was a ceasefire. Then came WW2, also lasting a week. WW3 lasted a month. The two times he saw Massaquoi was during wartime. The Witness explained that Massaquoi was not stationed at Waterside but that he came there regularly “based on info”. He then explained that the Agbah group were Sierra Leonean forces that were autonomous but worked with the government. In response to the Defense’s question about General Senegalese, the Witness replied that he had been told by the injured that he was a member of the government troops but the Witness did not see him heading the group. The Defense asked if the Witness participated in the Waterside battle, and the Judge reminded the Witness that he did not have to say anything that could incriminate him. The Witness responded that he did not participate, nor did he fight anywhere else. The Defense reminded the Witness that he had told the police several times that he was a combatant. The Witness replied that he was a militia soldier but that he had not fought. The Defense then asked how the Witness knew that soldiers came from Sierra Leone to fight, at the invitation of Charles Taylor. The Witness explained that he was told by senior government officers. The Defense asked him if he knew that “at a certain point, Charles Taylor had given [the] order to kill people from Sierra Leone?” and the Witness responded that he did not know how they left Liberia. The Defense then asked if the Sierra Leoneans were present, and the Witness responded that Sierra Leoneans and Liberians were always together.
The Defense then stated that in the police interview, the Witness referred to 2004-2005 as the end of the war. The Witness replied that he did not remember, but that he did indeed say that. When asked why he could remember now during the hearing, the Witness replied that “it slipped my mind, that was the time everything went on peacefully».
The Defense asked the Witness to elaborate on other commanders he mentioned both in the summary and during the hearing. The witness explained that [FNM-129] was a sniper at E.J Roye Building. General Sharay was the commander in charge of the Gabriel Tucker Bridge. However, he did not see them giving any orders, or shoot anyone.
He was then asked if he had been at Waterside throughout 2003, and if he witnessed any incident where a lot of people were killed. He replied that soldiers were killed for violations, and that they had different commanders for different groups. The Defense asked the Witness if, in his opinion, he was relaying information the same way he did to the police. The Witness responded that “Sometimes I say something, and I forget.»
The Defense then returned to the biscuit shop incident, and asked the Witness what had happened to the people who were locked up. The Witness explained that they had died inside the shop; he was there when the doors were closed; however, he was not present when the doors were reopened. The Defense pointed out that the Witness had told the Finnish police a different version of what happened at the biscuit shop and about Massaquoi. The witness explained these discrepancies by the fact that he had met many people during the war and that his memories were perhaps not very clear. He repeated that he had seen Massaquoi two times but not on the night of the biscuit store incident.
The Defense then asked whether he knew someone by the name of [FNM-245]. The witness said he did not.
The Prosecution resumes questioning
The Prosecution referred to the Defense’s questioning about the biscuit store, and the Witness’ testimony that Massaquoi was not present, although he had previously said to the police that Massaquoi was part of the group that executed the civilians at the store. The Witness disputed this version of events, reiterating that Massaquoi was not present and that the commander that evening was General Senegalese. The Prosecution asked if Massaquoi was responsible for the murder of soldiers that were looting stores, and the Witness responded that Massaquoi and his group shot people, both soldiers and civilians, looting. He was told this by the wounded people – he did not see this himself. This happened in late July. Here the Prosecution countered that in the interview the Witness had indicated late August after the heavy rains. The Witness explained that during the war they did not keep track of time. The Prosecution then asked the Witness whether he thought Massaquoi had a special assignment, and he responded that he did not: he added that ‘they would only come to tell us that we are going to fight, and then they would leave’. However, the Prosecution raised that during the interview with the police, the Witness had stated that Massaquoi was in charge of Waterside and Downtown Monrovia. The Witness responded that perhaps the police misunderstood him. Massaquoi and his men went to different frontlines, and had no specific assignment.
The Defense resumes questioning
The Defense continued on the same subject and asked the Witness to clarify the discrepancies between what he said during the hearing and what he told the Finnish police. The Witness simply replied that Massaquoi was not at the biscuit shop.
The Defense played a recording of the interview with the police in which the Witness stated that Massaquoi was present on the night of the biscuit store incident, in early 2003, and was the one controlling the group. The Witness says that Massaquoi “opened excessive fire on the soldiers and civilians that were looking for food.” After the shooting, they locked the store’s door.
The Prosecution resumes questioning
The Prosecution asked the Witness whether, on the basis of what he had just heard, he wished to amend his statement. The Witness clarified that this interview was the first time he had spoken about the war and he was therefore confused. The Prosecution asked if, after the interview, anyone had asked him not to say anything in court. The Witness declined, and repeated that Massaquoi was not present at the biscuit store incident, that he was involved in another incident in central Monrovia.
Last questions from the Defense
The Defense asked the Witness if the police had shown him a lineup, but the Witness said no. He stated that the police asked him if he could identify Massaquoi if they showed a picture, but they did not do it.
Witness X4 is Heard
The Prosecution questions Witness X4
The Witness began his testimony by saying he had experience with the 2003 war; and explained that at the time there were WW1, WW2, and WW3, even if he cannot exactly remember the months. He had been a teenager, around 13 years of age, when “Sharay”, who had control over Central Monrovia, where the E.J Roye building stands, recruited him and others as child soldiers. The Witness remembered that they used to accompany the general “Sharay” to the ELWA junction. He further indicated that there was a general by Black Gate, and that they used to see several generals at the time as the war became “serious” and that President Taylor ordered all of them to come to Monrovia. The Witness named generals “Gadaffi”, “Sharay”, and “Mosquito”. There were others he couldn’t remember and they were accompanied by “some strange generals”, among which the Witness mentioned Sam Bockarie, “Yanley”, “Salame”. The Witness explained that some Sierra Leonean soldiers were controlling the bridge leading to Waterside. Benjamin Yeaten – who was called “chief 50” – was the main general. The Witness indicated that Yeaten lived behind White Flower – President Taylor’s residence – around “Paco Island”. They used to go there to fetch supplies. He added that he might not remember everything, as he was a teenager at the time.
When asked about the Sierra Leonean soldiers, the Witness stated that they stayed with Benjamin Yeaten and that he had seen Sam Bockarie at the Black Gate as he went there with General Sharay, and General Yanley controlled the BZT gun. He said that he saw with his own eyes what happened during the war, and he reiterated that these soldiers – who Benjamin Yeaten said were RUF soldiers – controlled the area around Waterside, to prevent the rebels from entering the city. The Witness stayed with General Sharay in Monrovia until the cease fire. The Prosecution asked the Witness what the RUF was, and he responded that they were a warring faction which came to help President Taylor when the war intensified and fought with the government soldiers.
He stated that as the war intensified, Sam Bockarie – who according to the Witness belonged to the RUF – was replaced by “Mosquito”; the Witness then corrected himself and said « Ange Gabriel ». The Witness explained that Angel Gabriel was his nom de guerre, and that his real name was “Gabriel Massaquoi”. When asked how he knew this, the Witness explained that Benjamin Yeaten had introduced them to each new general, including Massaquoi; this took place at Yeaten’s residence in Paco Island. Massaquoi had soldiers under his command, and he was a general. The Witness met Massaquoi on other occasions in Monrovia. He described how Massaquoi “performed in front of me” when civilians looted, in Waterside. Massaquoi took a gun and shot at the civilians and – the Witness remembered – said “go tell God I sent you there”. Asked to specify the location, the Witness said it occurred in Waterside after the bridge, that was the only name of the place he knew.
The Witness didn’t see Massaquoi in Lofa, as he was only deployed in Monrovia but knew he had come from Lofa. He indicated that he went to pick up Massaquoi in Lofa county with General Sharay, and that ‘Yeaten and other top generals used to escort him’. His memory of this episode is incomplete and he couldn’t remember where it took place exactly, as he was young at the time. The Witness however remembered the pickup they used had “immigration camouflage color” and that they drove Massaquoi back to Monrovia, to Yeaten’s residence. The Prosecution asked for more details and the Witness recalled this occurred after the death of Sam Bockarie, even though he didn’t know exactly when it happened, only that it was 2003. When asked again what Massaquoi had said when shooting at the civilians, the Witness said that Massaquoi had said, “when you go, tell Jesus, I Angel Gabriel sent you.” He reiterated that he had heard it himself.
The Witness couldn’t remember the last time he saw Massaquoi. The Prosecution then asked how the Witness, who was 13 years old at the time, could remember all this. The Witness responded that he might not remember everything but what he said in court is what he remembered. Regarding the bridge controlled by the Sierra Leonean soldiers, the Witness said that it used to be called the “Old Bridge” but has since been rebuilt and it is now called the “New Bridge”.
La Défense interroge le témoin
The Defense opened by asking the Witness to describe the interview with the Finnish police. The Witness explained that a few months ago he was put in contact with the officers through a friend of his. This friend gave his number to [Employee 1], who told him that some officers from Finland wished to speak with him, and that they were going to explain to him what this was about. The Defense then asked when did the Witness stay with Sharay – he responded that it happened in 2003, and that everything he discussed was about 2003. The Defense pointed out that a memo of the Finnish police stated that the Witness had said that he lived in the town of Debbah in the years 2000-2001.The Witness explained that he met Sharay in Debbah through Sharay’s girlfriend. Sharay treated the Witness like “his little brother”. The Witness specified that he had met Sharay back in 2001 but got to know him better in 2003 when he became a child soldier. Sharay used to move between Monrovia and Debbah’s town and in 2002 the Witness came to Monrovia with him when the war was going on in Liberia. The first time the Witness went out of Monrovia was when they went to pick up Massaquoi in Lofa; while the war was going on in Monrovia.
The Defense then questioned the Witness about Sam Bockarie. The Witness said he had not personally met Sam Bockarie in Monrovia and he didn’t know where he was killed. He explained that he only knew that Sam Bockarie was a Sierra Leonean soldier who fought with them, and he did not know whether he had fought in other countries. Prior to his death, Sam Bockarie was general for the RUF and was then replaced by “General Massaquoi”. The Witness added that Sam Bockarie was commanding RUF troops in Monrovia, and he did not necessarily know if he was fighting on the front line. The Witness, however, added that “as a general, whether at your house or on the front line, if anything goes wrong you will be held responsible”.
The Defense then asked whether some commanders died in attacks prior to Sam Bockarie’s death. The Witness answered that it sometimes occurred. The Defense quoted the interview the Witness had given to the Finnish police, where he had said that a Commander named Samalay had died in a rocket attack prior to Sam Bockarie’s death. The Witness replied that he couldn’t remember everything and was unable to recall where that attack had occurred. The Defense reminded him that he had said this to the police in May 2021, and asked the question again. The Witness explained that Samalay died in Monrovia but he could not remember where exactly.
The Witness was asked the name of the village where he had picked up Massaquoi, but he could not remember, as he was a child soldier, and did not know Lofa. The Defense asked him if he remembered what he had said to the Finnish police on this matter, and the Witness explained that he was asked about when they picked up Massaquoi in Lofa, and that he had told him about going there, and about the colour of the pick-up. The Defense asked who accompanied the Witness on this expedition, and he said he went along with general Sharay, Chief 50 and other generals. When the Defense asked the Witness whether he remembered the names of the other generals, the Witness mentioned General Gadaffi, Sharay “and so on”. The Witness said they had many generals, and some were left to fight in Monrovia when the others went to pick up Massaquoi, but could not remember the names of those who stayed.
The Defense referred to the summary provided by the police, where it said the Witness was assigned to go to Kolahun together with Sharay, Roland Duo and Gadaffi to pick up Massaquoi. The Witness said he didn’t recall Kolahun, only that it was in Lofa. Asked whether it was possible that he had said Kolahun to the Finnish police, the Witness answered that he might have made a mistake with the name. He reiterated that he wasn’t familiar with Lofa and could only remember Kolahun. The Witness said they went at the border with Sierra Leone to pick up Massaquoi, but did not cross it. They had soldiers with them on the trip but were not attacked. The Defense asked whether it was correct that this occurred in 2003 at the end of May or during June. The Witness could not remember, as he was young at the time. The Defense then said that to reach the border they had to pass through Voinjama – which at the time was captured by the rebels. The Witness answered that he “might not remember” whether they were attacked or not.
The Defense then questioned the Witness about the year 2001-2002. The Witness explained that he used to accompany Sharay in the village when he would visit his girlfriend. The Defense went back to the occurrences when Massaquoi was heard sending people to God. The Witness said it occurred when people were looting at Waterside and that he himself heard Massaquoi make the “communiqué”. The Defense noted that this was not part of the police’s summary but that another incident was described by the Witness where Massaquoi also allegedly used the same words. The Witness said there were many incidents and that he didn’t remember all of them.
The hearing ended. It will resume on September 15.