Trial Monitoring: Gibril Massaquoi
Gibril Massaquoi, former Lieutenant-Colonel and spokesman of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), was tried before the District Court of Tampere, Finland, for allegedly 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 during the First Liberian Civil War.
Massaquoi’s trial started on February 3, 2021, in Tampere. The Finnish court travelled to Liberia in mid-February – first conducting site visits in Lofa County, and then going to Monrovia on February 23 to hear the witnesses. The hearings in Monrovia concluded on April 7, 2021. The Court then relocated in Sierra Leone on May 11, to hear additional witnesses. After a brief period back to Tampere, the Court returned in Liberia mid-September to hear more witnesses. One month later, the Court moved back to Tampere for the final stretch of the trial. Finally, the last witnesses were heard in January 2022 and the Defense and Prosecution pleaded their closing arguments.
On April 29, 2022, the District Court dismissed all charges, and found that there was reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the offenses he was charged with. In May 2022, the Prosecution filed an appeal. The appeal began on January 10, 2023, and lasted until September 8, 2023 : you can find the daily trial reports here.
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 trial 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.
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 are conducted in Finnish and not translated is not captured in our trial monitoring.
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 email@example.com to request access.