The 58ème day of public hearings resumed on Friday, 19ème November in Finland.
Expert Witness Ilmari Käihkö is Heard
The Prosecution questions the expert witness Ilmari Käihkö
The witness was summoned again to testify because his expert witness statement from 2 September 2021 was prepared based on questions emailed to the witness by the Defense and the Prosecution did not have the opportunity to cross examine him. The expert witness statement concerned the feasibility of travel between Monrovia and Sierra Leone between February and May during the civil war.
The Prosecution began with questions on the reasons behind LURD’s gradual overtaking of the government forces. The Witness explained that it was mainly due to the material support provided by Guinea and while LURD forces were initially weaker in manpower, it impacted the government forces’ military tactic. The Prosecution was interested whether LURD manpower, assuming they had 8,000 active soldiers, was capable of closing Monrovia off from the rest of Liberia. The Witness explained that in the summer of 2003 all forces were centered on Monrovia and thus could close the city off. He had been asked about motorcades or the blockage of roads, but said it was impossible to say whether one could have left the city on foot.
He explained that siege of Monrovia did not mean that Monrovia was completely sealed off. In fact, the east side was open, and it was possible to go towards Sierra Leone, but during the siege he considered it “highly unlikely.” It was sealed on the North side because of The Guldenstein Bridge.
The witness clarified that in his expert witness statement by the word motorcade he meant two or more cars using the roads with no difference between civilian or armored vehicles. To the Prosecutor’s hypothetical question of whether a car carrying an anti-aircraft rifle could drive out of Monrovia under the siege he replied that it would have been “highly unlikely” particularly if the vehicle had to drive through a populated area because it would attract attention. While under the LURD’s control, Monrovia was not completely closed off, the opposing side, the government troops, had set up roadblocks, and thus a motorcade could not have driven unnoticed. There were two main routes and possibly other smaller ones, but he concluded that the infrastructure was of poor quality in 2003.
In the expert witness statement, the witness relied on Google maps which were recent and said that he had not familiarized himself with the maps of the area from the time of relevant events.
In the context of LURD controlled areas before the siege of Monrovia and the world wars in 2003, the witness explained that when the war front was in Lofa district, the LURD worked on controlling the roads. The Witness stated that it was easier to control areas where there was no active fighting because they could then focus on controlling the surroundings. The witness said there was no specific research investigating the possibility of travel in Liberia at the time.
In the expert witness statement, the Witness relied on the UK Security Council expert panel report of 24 April 2003 which was instructive in answering the request by the defense to speak on the feasibility of movement between February and May 2003.
On page 3 of the expert witness statement the Witness mentioned that at the beginning of April the LURD troops controlled the area where Human Rights Watch researchers were interviewing fighters. While the Witness could not ascertain how they might have entered the area, one possibility was that they came through Sierra Leone over the bridge because the war in Sierra Leone had ended at that time, in 2002 followed by the arrival of peacekeepers. Border security was the main imperative at the time, and the witness did not know whether that facilitated travel between Bo and the Liberian border.
The Prosecution recalled the testimonies of previous witnesses, civilians, who reportedly escaped from Monrovia to the countryside where it was calmer. The Witness opined that it would have been possible during the third world war, as the roads were open toward Red Light, but towards the North was unlikely. During active fighting he did not think the civilians could have easily moved.
Taylor’s troops did not manage to capture much of the area outside Red Light and Gwanga. North from Gwanga toward Sierra Leone there was a route alternative.
One of the witnesses heard since this Witness’ first testimony asserted that Voinjama was controlled partially by the government troops and partially by LURD in 2002. The Witness agreed that in 2001 the control was divided between the two but was not sure about 2002.
In preparation of his expert witness statement the Witness was able to consult the only few available documentary sources. Primarily for his second statement the Witness interviewed a LURD commander. He said that it was hard to confirm dates in his research. The Witness confirmed that his own research did not include the control over Bo Waterside between April and June 2003, adding that generally this period has not been researched and the information about this war, in general, is incomplete.
The remainder of the questioning centered on possible routes facilitated by several maps. The Prosecution shared with the Witness, the judges and the defense an email with maps from the preliminary investigation. The witness confirmed that his statement’s reference to “a road from Monrovia to Lofa, Kolahun and Foya” related to a road in red on the MSF map through Voinjama to Foya and onward to Sierra Leone. He said he relied exclusively on Google Maps and based his expert witness statement on the main roads.
The Prosecution, however pointed to the UNJLC map which was updated in 2003 and inquired about possible routes between Liberia and Sierra Leone, specifically through Foya on the so-called main road. The Witness explained that there were additional routes in the north, and said it may have been technically possible to use a road other than the main route in 2003, but he was not sure of the exact circumstances then. On another MSF map there appeared to be other routes going between Lofa and Sierra Leone.
The Defense questions the witness Ilmari Käihkö
The Witness confirmed that it is difficult to know the condition of the smaller, side roads visible on the maps and whether they were suitable for driving or only walking but it is known that they were in a bad condition. The witness did not know when the rainy season was in 2003. He also explained that Kolahun’s population centre was controlled by LURD between June to August 2003, and he was not sure about the wider area of Kolahun. In 2003 the roads typically had roadblocks which means that any movement through the populated areas controlled by the rebels would attract attention. The Defense said that according to a witness testimony heard in court, commanders visited Kolahun in motorcades during the world wars, but the witness considered that it would have been hard to do during active combat. He did not know if it was possible to drive from Monrovia to Kolahun.
The Witness could not confirm whether one part of Voinjama was controlled by LURD and the other by the government because the front line was frequently pushed back and forth. Concerning the communication about the frontlines between Lofa and Sierra Leone the Witness shared that there was a record but it may have been unreliable because the communication equipment was of poor quality. The witness said that government forces and LURD knew which side was controlling which roads indicating the control of populated areas.
He could not comment whether it was possible for the government troops to drive to Sierra Leone during the world wars. He asserted that at the end of the Liberian war in August 2003, while Pool Waterside was controlled by LURD, government troops or individual soldiers could move easier to and from Monrovia although he could not confirm with certainty. He affirmed that the LURD controlled Kolahun during the world wars and concluded that he would not alter his expert witness statement because he focused on main routes while being aware that many things about this war remain unknown.
Gibril Massaquoi questions the witness Ilmari Käihkö
Regarding Monrovia between mid-May to June and the control of Iron Gate the Witness confirmed that LURD was in control. On the 24ème of April, the LURD was pushed out of Bo Waterside but were not far. The Witness could not remember whether LURD forces arrived at Artignton in 2002 or 2003.
Prosecution questions the witness Ilmari Käihkö
In response to the question of whether the government troops controlled Artington in May 2003 the Witness said that there is a period of six weeks which is unaccounted for. Namely, at the end of April it was under the control of government forces and then by June the LURD controlled it; he did not know what had occurred in the six-week period in-between.
The Defendant Gibril Massaquoi is Heard Again
The Prosecution continues questioning the Defendant
On the topic of weapons, the Defendant confirmed that Foday Sankoh initially worked to end the war but subsequently sought weapons and ammunitions after he realized that the government was not committed to it. He could not recall whether Sankoh continued searching for weapons after Bockarie left for Liberia but confirmed that Bockarie was not in favor of disarming following the UN process while Sankoh was.
The Prosecution made reference to a transcript from the 2nd November 2002. The Defendant explained that Sankoh was against the disarmament after the first Abidjan Agreement because of multiple attacks by the Civil Defense Forces on RUF positions. The mention of the Abidjan Agreement does not refer to the 2001 agreement.
In 1996 Sankoh sent money to Bockarie to purchase ammunition from Liberia and deliver it to Sierra Leone that was at the time controlled by ULIMO. The disarmament process had been planned but on the day the agreement was supposed to be signed the RUF forces were pushed back to Liberia so the agreement was not signed.
The Defendant reiterated that he was shown a picture of Sam Bockarie’s corpse at the SCSL by someone from the Prosecutor’s Office at the end of May or beginning of June in 2003. It could have been by [FNM-201], [FNM-228] or someone else. The corpse was bloated but he recognized it was Sam Bockarie, it is possible that he had gained weight and for that reason it appeared bloated. The Office of the Prosecutor asked him to confirm the corpse’s identity because they were concerned that the Liberian government may not want to hand him over alive. Bockarie was indicted by the SCSL, and the Office of the Prosecutor may have been interested in the circumstances of this death. The Defendant could not remember being asked to inquire but was possibly asked to question other people. He, however, did not leave the safe house to ask people what happened to Bockarie.
When traveling between Liberia and Sierra Leone with the delegation, the Defendant explained that they used the main road that follows the border and from Liberia, leads to Buedo and Kailahun in Sierra Leone. When travelling with the delegation they crossed the border, went to Foya, onto Voinjama and Monrovia. After leaving Foya there were small villages, one was possibly Guedo and he could not recall the smaller ones. They also went to Dia, Bandakoro and Pila.
The Prosecution referenced a location called Foya Customs on the map. The Defendant could not remember if there was a border crossing there, it could have been that there were smaller routes and they took the main road leading to Foya. After departing from Kono they traveled via Buedu, which is the main road for vehicles to travel to Foya, because it was controlled by the RUF. They only used the main road when they were going through Buedu, which was possibly the shortest route when traveling in a vehicle.
Remaining on the issue of border crossing between Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Prosecutor referred to a document, according to which the Defendant crossed the border into Liberia with Issa Sesay and other RUF soldiers. After the border crossing there is a road to Foya which also goes to Vahun. The Defendant confirmed that this was the border crossing he used when travelling by car to get to Sierra Leone – if someone was traveling in a vehicle, they would always use that road to get to Sierra Leone.
The Prosecution sked which route the Defendant took to get from Foya to Vahun. The Defendant explained that he did not know the routes because he is not familiar with Lofa county. On the way to meet the President they were flown by a helicopter to Monrovia. The Defendant clarified that he had not visited Foya before a certain time because it was under the control of the rebels. The Prosecution stated that West from Vahun is Folima and the border crossing. The Defendant could not recall but remembered they went by Buedu.
The Defendant confirmed that he had heard of Kun Boun, which is a town in Liberia, but he could not remember exactly where. He recalled having driven through it towards the end of 2000 to the beginning of 2001, during one of the trips with the delegation either to or from Monrovia to Sierra Leone.
During the preliminary examination when asked whether he knew Foya in Liberia the Defendant maintained that when he first went to Liberia, he did not know where Foya was located. He explained that he was shown a map and could not locate Foya on it. Also, during the same preliminary examination the Defendant asserted that he did not remember a place Vahun but conceded that it may be in Lofa. The Defendant commented that it has been twenty years and it was impossible for him to remember the names of villages and towns which he passed. He knew it was in Liberia but could not remember exactly where. The Prosecution said that the Defendant talked about Vahun in the interrogation and various documents yet could not remember it in the preliminary examination and the Witness explained that while the preliminary examination was conducted in 2020, the interrogation by the SCSL was in 2002 and 2003.
The travel for the trips with the delegation between Sierra Leone and Liberia took place during the day and night, arriving in Monrovia early in the morning. He could not remember if they spent the night somewhere. However, the Prosecution referred to SCSL documents discussed during the previous session where the Defendant asserted that he slept in Foya. The Defendant had also said that a helicopter couldn’t come that late in the night and he left the next morning after Yeaten gave 7 boxes of ammunition to Issa Sesay. The Defendant said he didn’t remember. When the Prosecution pointed to his statement during the preliminary examination where he answered that he never spent the night, the Defendant maintained that he in fact told the SCSL that they had to stay the night once because the helicopter could not come.
Next, the Defendant confirmed that he did not see Superman’s body after his death. Previously in one of his statements to the SCSL it was recorded that he saw it, but it was a misunderstanding, and it was subsequently corrected. He could not remember when he died but in 2001 while he was in Monrovia one of the bodyguards told him that Benjamin Yeaten killed him somewhere in Lofa.