Gibril Massaquoi is currently on trial for committing and inciting the murders of civilians and enemy fighters, aggravated rapes, aggravated war crimes, and aggravated violations of human rights in a State of Emergency.

Massaquoi’s trial started in Tampere, Finland, on February 1st 2021. The Finnish court travelled to Liberia in mid February – first conducting site visits in Lofa County before returning to Monrovia and commencing hearings there on February 23rd 2021. The hearings in Monrovia concluded on April 7th 2021. The hearings will re-commence in early May in Sierra Leone. The court will ultimately return to Tampere, Finland, to conclude the trial. 

When possible, pseudonyms reflect those used in the prosecution’s pre-trial material. In addition, Civitas Maxima has assigned pseudonyms to named victims and/or witnesses in order to further protect their identity.

Civitas Maxima, in collaboration with Liberian and Sierra Leonean partners, the Center for Human Rights, Gender, and Migration of Washington University (United States), and The Hague University (Netherlands), will provide a daily summary of the proceedings.

Art produced by Kalonji Art, and Leslie Lumeh in collaboration with New Narratives.

French translation provided by Natacha Bracq and Civitas Maxima.

The French translation will be published with a delay compared to the English version. Thank you for your understanding.

In the event of a conflict of meaning, differences in the spelling of names and locations, the English version shall prevail.

Disclaimer

Civitas Maxima believes that local populations – those who bear the consequences of the gravest war crimes and human rights violations committed in their countries – have the right to accessible and unbiased information about the trials of alleged war criminals.

This is why we conduct trial monitoring, so that what is being said in court is available to all, especially the affected populations who cannot travel to the country where the trail is held, or who otherwise do not have access to the hearings.

Civitas Maxima does not provide official court transcripts.

How trial monitoring for the Massaquoi case works

Local partners are physically present at the venues where the hearings are taking place (Finland, Liberia, and Sierra Leone) in order to take notes of what is being said in court, as accurately as possible. 

These draft notes are then summarised by students from the Hague University (Netherlands) and the Washington University Center for Human Rights, Gender, and Migration (United States). These summaries of each hearing day, as well as weekly recaps, are published on our website.  

Limitations

The official language of the proceedings is Finnish. While our Finnish-speaking partners can follow the entirety of the proceedings that are held in Tampere, our local partners in Liberia and Sierra Leone are only able to capture what is said in English or translated by the official Court interpreters. As a result, during the hearings in Liberia and Sierra Leone, any discussions between the parties which is conducted in Finnish and not translated is not captured in our trial monitoring.

Anonymization

While the Finnish authorities utilized a naming system (Civilian XX, Soldier XX, Employee XX, etc.) to protect the identities of persons and witnesses involved in the case, they did not anonymize the names of all persons mentioned during the trial or named in the pre-trial material.

Civitas Maxima’s primary concern is the safety and security of all persons, and ensuring that we do not contribute to the possible identification of anyone involved. We have therefore followed the naming convention utilized by the Finnish authorities, and supplemented this with our own naming system in order to anonymize all named persons, with the exception of well-known individuals, such as senior officials, who have testified or been named in other public trials and/or the Reports of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In addition, we have anonymized a small number of place names (clearly marked in the summary with [Place x]) when this was considered necessary to protect identities or specific investigative practices.

Accuracy regarding locations

Wherever possible, we have cross referenced the town and village names mentioned by the witnesses with official maps of Liberia and Sierra Leone, in order to capture as accurately as possible the correct locations. However, there have been difficulties capturing some place names, particularly in respect of very small remote towns, and spellings vary. In cases of doubt, the names recorded by our local partners is followed.

Verbatim notes taken by our trial monitors are available to journalists on request. Please contact comms@civitas-maxima.org to request access.



Week in Review: Week 9

Week in Review: Week 9 Introduction to Week 9’s hearings and witnesses The ninth week of the Gibril Massaquoi trial ended on 7 April 2021, after three days of hearings in Monrovia, Liberia. Hearings focused on the testimony of eight witnesses. As with prior witnesses, their identities were concealed. The witnesses were heard in the […]

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06/04/21 [Liberia] Day 26: The Hearing of Witnesses 50, 51, and 52

06/04/21 [Liberia] Day 26: The Hearing of Witnesses 50, 51, and 52 The 26th day of public hearings resumed on 6 April 2021 in Monrovia, Liberia. Witness 50 is heard  (Finnish Witness ID: Civilian 76) The Prosecution questions Witness 50 Witness 50 testified about events at Waterside. The Witness sold clothes in Waterside from 1998 […]

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05/04/21 [Liberia] Day 25: The Hearing of Witnesses 48 and 49

05/04/21 [Liberia] Day 25: The Hearing of Witnesses 48 and 49 Witness 48 is heard  (Finnish Witness ID: Soldier 39) The Defense questions Witness 48 The Witness began by explaining that during the Second Liberian Civil War he was assigned to Vahun, near the border with Sierra Leone, from December 1999 until 2002 where he […]

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Week in Review: Week 8

Week in Review: Week 8 Introduction to Week 8’s hearings and witnesses The eighth week of the Gibril Massaquoi trial ended on 2 April 2021, after three days of hearings in Monrovia, Liberia. Hearings focused on the testimony of nine witnesses. As with prior witnesses, their identities were concealed. The witnesses were heard in the […]

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31/03/21 [Liberia] Day 23: The Hearing of Witnesses 42, 43, and 44

31/03/21 [Liberia] Day 23: The Hearing of Witnesses 42, 43, and 44 The twenty-third day of public hearings resumed on March 31, 2021 in Monrovia, Liberia. Witness 42 is heard (Finnish Witness ID: Soldier 07) The Prosecution questions Witness 42 The Witness began his testimony by explaining that Benjamin Yeaten was the Director of the Special […]

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Week in Review – Week 7

Week in Review – Week 7 Introduction to Week 7’s hearings and witnesses The seventh week of the Gibril Massaquoi trial ended on 26 March 2021, after three days of hearings in Monrovia, Liberia. Hearings focused on the testimony of eight witnesses. As with prior witnesses, their identities were concealed. The witnesses were heard in […]

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Week in Review – Week 6

The sixth week of the Gibril Massaquoi trial ended on 19 March 2021 after three days of hearings in Monrovia, Liberia. Hearings focused on the testimony of ten witnesses, the first of whom returned to finalise his testimony about his experiences in Waterside during the Second Civil War, after first appearing during the previous week’s hearings.

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Week in Review – Week 5

The fifth week of the Gibril Massaquoi trial ended on 10 March 2021, after three days of hearings in Monrovia, Liberia. Hearings focused on the testimony of seven witnesses, six of whom recounted their experiences during and after an attack at the Waterside market in Monrovia.

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Week in Review – Week 4

The fourth week of the Gibril Massaquoi trial ended on 5 March 2021, after three days of hearings in Monrovia, Liberia. Hearings focused on the testimony of eight witnesses, who recounted their experiences during an attack at the Waterside market in Monrovia, Liberia. As with prior witnesses, the identities of all witnesses were concealed.

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Week in Review – Week 3

The third week of the Gibril Massaquoi trial ended on 25 February 2021, after three days of hearings. The trial moved from Tampere, Finland, to Monrovia, Liberia, to hear witnesses and allow the Finnish authorities to visit sites where Mr. Massaquoi allegedly committed violations of Finnish and international criminal law. The accused remained in Finland, and a videolink was provided to enable him to follow proceedings in real time. 

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23/02/21 [Liberia] Day 7: The hearing of Witness 1

The trial resumed after the Finnish judges, prosecutors, investigators, and defense counsel travelled to Lofa County and locations in Monrovia to visit the sites of Gibril Massaquoi’s allegedly crimes. To know more about this, you can read about it here, and see footage here.

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Week in Review – Week 2

The second week of the Gibril Massaquoi trial ended on 12 February 2021, after three days of public hearings in Tampere, Finland. The first day of this week’s hearings comprised the continued presentation of documentary evidence by the Defense. On the second and third days, Mr. Massaquoi offered his own testimony to the Court and was questioned by both the Defense and the Prosecution.

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11/02/21 [Finland] Day 5: Mr. Massaquoi is Heard

The fifth day of public hearings opened with the Judge announcing that Mr. Massaquoi, the Accused, would be heard today. He explained that the Defense, led by Mr. Gummerus, may ask questions first, and following that, the Prosecution, led by Mr. Laitinen, may also ask questions. The Judge stated that the Accused is under no obligation to answer the questions or to answer truthfully. 

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Week in Review – Week 1

The first week of the Gibril Massaquoi trial ended on 5 February 2021, after three days of public hearings in Tampere, Finland. For more context about the case, please see this overview.

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04/02/21 [Finland] Day 2: Introducing the Case

The second day of public hearings at the Pirkanmaa District Court began with the Assistant Prosecutor delivering an overview of the Prosecution’s case. The Assistant Prosecutor began by showing various locations to make sure the Court had an overview of the crime sites.  The following places were emphasized by the Assistant Prosecutor…

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03/02/21 [Finland] Day 1: the Charges Are Read

The first day of public hearings in the trial of Mr. Gibril Massaquoi began at the Pirkanmaa District Court in Tampere, Finland on 3 February 2021, with District Judge Paiho (Chair) noting that, in the preparatory hearing, it was decided that a judicial examination of the case shall be arranged in Liberia, and that the details of this examination would be determined at a later date.

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