Trial Monitoring: Gibril Massaquoi’s appeal proceedings
Gibril Massaquoi, former Lieutenant-Colonel and spokesman of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), was tried before the District Court of Tampere, Finland, from February 3, 2021 to January 2022. Throughout the year, hearings were held in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Finland. On April 29, 2022, the District Court dismissed all charges, and found that there was reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the offences he was charged with. After that, the Prosecution appealed the Court’s decision. The appeal proceedings will begin on January 10 2023, at the Turku Court of Appeal, Finland, and are expected to last until June. The Court will relocate to Liberia to hear witnesses.
The complete trial monitoring will be published after the appeal.
Trial monitoring of the first instance proceedings can be found here.
Art by Leslie Lumeh
Voiceover by: Dounard Bondo
Dounard is a Liberia-based journalist who usually covers stories on human rights, development and politics. He has reported on post-war justice in Liberia for many outlets. Dounard has a Bsc in International law and diplomacy and a masters in international maritime law. Additionally, he is currently a senior student at the Louis Arthur Grimes school of law where he is pursuing an LLB.
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The proceedings are being held in French; therefore, French is the original language of this monitoring. As making legal information accessible is a part of Civitas Maxima’s mission, English translations made with Deepl will be available. Hence, issues with the English translation may apply.
The names of certain witnesses and civil parties are withheld for privacy and security reasons.
The monitoring is not an official court transcript.
[01/10/2023] Day One
Recap Day One: The appeal proceedings begin
The President explained the history of the proceedings and the main points of the District Court’s judgment and the parties’ submissions. In April 2022, The District Court found that there was reasonable doubt that Gibril Massaquoi had committed the crimes he was accused of, and the Prosecutors later appealed this judgment.
Next, both parties took the floor for their opening statements. The Prosecution began by describing Liberia’s Second Civil War, and presented the way that the Finnish authorities had begun their investigation and gathered information on the crimes in question. They then described to the Court how the Tampere Court had misunderstood the evidence and it had to be rectified.
The Defense focused on a chronological presentation of Gibril Massaquoi’s journey with the RUF. It also presented its views about the witnesses’ statements presented by the prosecution, and how, according to the defense, the Finnish investigation was biased.
After the opening statements, the Court moved on to discuss the written evidence presented by the Prosecution for the rest of the session.
[01/12/2023] Day Two
Recap Day Two: Written Evidence: Defense
The second day was dedicated to the presentation of the Defense’s written evidence. Most of it had already been submitted during the first instance proceedings, but new additions and modifications were made.
The Defense described the context of both the Sierra Leonean and Liberian civil wars, as well as Gibril Massaquoi’s role in the RUF. In particular, it focused on Massaquoi’s location: through UN reports and newspapers, the Defense attempted to establish that between 1999 and 2001 – when the alleged crimes were committed – Massaquoi had been traveling, and despite a few trips in Liberia, the Defense stated that he had rarely been in the country. The Prosecution challenged some of the evidence presented.
[01/13/2023] Day Three
Recap Day Three: Conclusion of written evidence
The third day was dedicated to the period of 2002 to 2003 when some of the alleged crimes were committed.
The Defense presented documents related to Gibril Massaquoi’s cooperation with the Office of the Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. It also criticized how the Finnish police handled the collection of witnesses’ statements before and after the trial. According to the Defense, the Finnish police and its Liberian partner did not deal with the witnesses correctly and did not report certain issues in a timely manner.
Finally, the Defense discussed how some evidence had been fabricated against the client: in particular, it referred to a picture which had evidently been manipulated to incriminate Mr Massaquoi.
The hearings will start again on Monday January 16.
[01/17/2023] Day Four
Recap Day Four: Expert statements
The first day of the second week of the trial was dedicated to statements of expert witnesses. Most of the statements discussed were those that had previously been examined during the first instance proceedings.
The court first read an expert testimony that dealt with the historical context of the Second Liberian Civil War. The remaining two testimonies focused on forensic psychology. One of the experts had been consulted during the first instance proceedings, whilst the other had been more recently requested by the Prosecution for the current proceedings. The findings of the two expert opinions go against eachother; for this reason, each party called for both experts to be heard at trial.
[01/18/2023] Day Five
Recap Day Five: Gibril Massaquoi is heard
Day two of the second week of trial marked the first day of the hearing of the accused, Gibril Massaquoi.
The Defense was invited to question Massaquoi first. Its questioning followed a similar approach as that previously before the District Court. Massaquoi was first asked about his personal background and the origins of his membership in the RUF. He then went on to explain his activities in the RUF, first as a regular member, and later as the movement’s spokesman and assistant to its leader, Foday Sankoh.
As the acts allegedly took place between 1999 and 2003, this time period was covered extensively throughout Massaquoi’s hearing. He was asked about different trips that he took to Liberia and other neighboring countries as the head of the RUF external delegation, as well as his activities in Sierra Leone after the end of the Civil War and the arrests of former RUF members. Questions relating to the SCSL safe house, in which Massaquoi was located, also played a large role.
[01/19/2023] Day Six
Recap Day Six: The prosecution questions Gibril Massaquoi
On the second day of the defendant’s hearing, it was the Prosecution’s turn to question Massaquoi. As a basic chronology of events had been mapped out the previous day by the Defence, the Prosecution focused a lot on the statements that Massaquoi that had given to his defence lawyers.
The Prosecutors sought to establish contradictions between these recent statements, and those that he gave earlier in 2002 and 2003 to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. In addition, these were contrasted to a version of events that Massaquoi described in the draft of his book, where he recounts a series of events occurring in both Sierra Leone and Liberia.
For example, the Prosecution questioned Massaquoi on the end of his involvement with RUF armed activities, his role in the RUF diamond trade, and the role of Charles Taylor during the Sierra Leone peace process. The details of the RUF external delegation and its travels to Liberia and other countries were also discussed at length.
In addition to these questions, the Court also watched a videotape of a statement of a witness who had since passed away. The last day of the second week, on Friday 20th , will mark the beginning of witness statements given in Finland, before the Court heads to Monrovia.
[01/20/2023] Day Seven
Recap Day Seven: First witnesses heard
The final day of the January proceedings in Turku, Finland marked the beginning of witness statements.
The Court first heard an expert witness, who had provided two expert testimonies on the historical context of the Second Liberian Civil War during the District Court proceedings. After, it heard a Finnish policeman, who had been part of the investigation since the very beginning in 2018. This witness was asked about the details of the investigation in Liberia and the role of the GJRP and its employees. The Defense has strongly criticized the police investigation in this regard.
After these witness statements, the Court watched another videotape of a statement given to the District Court by a witness who had since passed away. On Monday 23, a similar videotape will also be watched, with the parties viewing it remotely online and the while the judges remain present in Turku.
The following week, the Court and the Parties will depart for Monrovia, Liberia for two months of witness statements. The first session in Monrovia is scheduled to begin on Monday, February 6.
[02/06/2023] Day Eight
Recap Day Eight: The proceedings begin in Monrovia
The eighth day of the trial marked the beginning of the appeal proceedings in Monrovia, Liberia. The previous week, the Appeals Court and the parties had visited some locations relevant for the case in Lofa County and Monrovia.
The day was supposed to be dedicated to a particular witness statement, but the witness had informed the Court that they were not able to come to Monrovia to testify. This led to a discussion between the Court and the parties on how to deal with such situations in the future. They discussed whether to view a videotape of the statement previously given by this witness during the District Court phase in February 2021. The Court decided that in this case, there was no obstacle under Finnish law to examine this particular witness statement from the videotape recorded during their previous testimony.
The rest of the day was used to view the videotape in question.
[02/07/2023] Day Nine
Recap Day Nine: The first witness is heard
The second day of the proceedings in Monrovia saw the Turku Appeals Court hear its first witness in person. The witness testified about his wartime experiences during the Second Liberian Civil War in Waterside, Monrovia.
As with the District Court proceedings, identifying the precise timing of the events proved difficult for both the witness and the Court to establish. The Defense of Mr Massaquoi cited the witness’ previous statements during the pre-trial investigation as well as the District Court proceedings, where he seemed to have placed the events at different years each time. The witness stated that the passing of time has made this difficult to remember and maintained that he always tried to remember the specific date of the events to his best ability.
Tomorrow, the Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear three more witnesses.
[02/08/2023] Day Ten
Recap Day Ten: Three more witnesses heard
The third day of the proceedings in Monrovia saw the Court hear three witnesses recounting their wartime experiences in Waterside, Monrovia, where Gibril Massaquoi allegedly committed some of the crimes he is being charged with.
The incident discussed by the witnesses relates to the difficult food situation in Monrovia during the war and the looting of a biscuit store in Waterside. The witnesses told the Court that they met a man calling himself Angel Gabriel, or Gabriel Massaquoi, who was commanding the government forces. They stated that man ordered the killings of civilians in Waterside and near the Old Bridge in Monrovia. The Prosecution maintains that this man is the defendant, Gibril Massaquoi, whilst the Defense rejects any such claims.
The Court will not be in session tomorrow and will resume the hearings on Friday, February 10.
[02/10/2023] Day Eleven
Recap Day Eleven: Three more witnesses are heard
On the final day of the first week of proceedings in Monrovia, the Court heard three more witnesses. One of the witness’ identity is classified, so and this witness was in a private hearing.
The Court resumed public hearings at 1 pm and heard two more witnesses about events relating to a biscuit store and the Old Bridge in Waterside, Monrovia. The witnesses talked about a commander calling himself Angel Gabriel ordering the killing of civilians next to a base, or checkpoint, at Old Bridge.
The next hearing is scheduled to take place next Monday, February 13.
[02/13/2023] Day Twelve
Recap Day Twelve: Three witnesses and a biscuit store
The first day of the second week of proceedings in Monrovia began with the Court hearing three witnesses about events that occurred near a biscuit store and around the Old Bridge area in Waterside, Monrovia. The three witnesses spoke about the killing, harassment and rape of civilians in Monrovia and the role of Angel Gabriel, the commander of the soldiers committing these acts.
The Court will continue tomorrow with three more witnesses.
[02/14/2023] Day Thirteen
Recap Day Thirteen: Civilians detained in Waterside
The Court heard three more witnesses about events in Waterside, Monrovia today.
The first witness described how they were detained by soldiers in Waterside and taken to the Old Bridge area, where they saw civilians killed and raped by soldiers. The leader of the soldiers also killed a young girl himself. The second witness described a shooting that took place at a particular biscuit store in Waterside, where his friend was killed. Civilians were also taken to the Old Bridge, where they were executed. The third witness spoke about being detained in a store by soldiers in Waterside. The soldiers picked up civilians from the store and executed them outside.
The Court will continue to hear witnesses tomorrow.
[02/15/2023] Day Fourteen
Recap Day Fourteen: Shooting in a store
The Court heard three more witnesses today in relation to events in Waterside, Monrovia. The first witness described seeing civilians being detained in the Waterside market area and taken under the Old Bridge. Here, the witness added that civilians were killed and raped by soldiers. The witness testified to being assaulted and robbed by a child soldier belonging to the same group.
The second witness explained how they had gone to Waterside market, to buy rice. They described being in an unattended shop with other civilians who were also looking for food, soldiers fired into the store. The soldiers detained the survivors, including the witness, in a building by the Old Bridge. The witness added that the soldiers’ commander killed children and allowed his troops to rape women.
In the final testimony of the day, the third witness described a similar chain of events.
The Court will not be in session tomorrow, and is scheduled to continue hearings on Friday, 17 February.
[02/17/2023] Day Fifteen
Recap Day Fifteen: Soldiers in court
The last day of the second week of proceedings in Monrovia saw the Court hear two soldiers about their participation in the Second Liberian Civil War.
The first witness served during the war in the Armed Forces of Liberia. He described the co-operation between official government troops and the RUF, who crossed from Sierra Leone to Liberia during the war. Later, when he was in Monrovia, he witnessed a battle against LURD rebels and the alleged atrocities committed by RUF troops.
The second witness was an RUF fighter during the war. He described his experience of crossing from Sierra Leone to Liberia and the killings of civilians in Lofa county by RUF forces. He also talked about being in Monrovia, where he was placed in Waterside. He recounted witnessing similar battles and atrocities as described by the first witness.
While the witnesses described somewhat similar events, the precise timing of their testimonies was the subject of a lot of discussion in the Court. The Court shall resume hearings next week.
[02/20/2023] Day Sixteen
Recap Day Sixteen: Waterside soldiers
The third week of the proceedings in Monrovia began with the Court continuing with last week’s theme. The Court heard two former RUF fighters’ testimonies about their experiences during the Second Liberian Civil War.
The first witness described his time in the RUF, both in Lofa County and Monrovia. Both parties focused on his experiences around the Waterside area in Monrovia during the so-called World Wars.
The second witness described his experience as a fighter for multiple armed factions both in Sierra Leone and Liberia. As they had done with the first witness, the parties focused on his time with the RUF, and particularly events in Monrovia during the World Wars.
The Court will continue its hearings tomorrow, Tuesday 21, and will hear three additional witnesses.
[02/21/2023] Day Seventeen
Recap Day Seventeen: Civilians held under a bridge
Today, the Court heard three witnesses speak about incidents in Waterside, Monrovia.
The first witness, an NPFL soldier during the war, described being stationed near Waterside in Monrovia alongside RUF troops. He described various killings of civilians and soldiers in the area.
The second witness was a civilian, who had been detained near Waterside market and taken to a gate near the bridge. The third witness was also a civilian and gave a similar account of being captured by soldiers. She, along with some of her friends, was tied up and taken under Waterside bridge. One of the friends that had been captured with her was killed before her very eyes by the Sierra Leonean commander of the soldiers in the area.
The Court is not scheduled to have a hearing tomorrow and will continue hearing witnesses on Thursday, February 23, at 9 am.
[02/23/2023] Day Eighteen
Recap Day Eighteen: Executions in Waterside
The Court heard two witnesses today, both soldiers serving on the Liberian government’s side during the Second Liberian Civil War.
The first witness described their war experience during the later phases of the Civil War, when fighting took place between government forces and LURD in Monrovia, around the Waterside area. The witness mentioned executions of civilians and soldiers undertaken by commanders, for example, as a punishment for looting the stores.
The second witness’ testimony also focused on the Waterside area. They described a particular incident, where they heard gunfire while on patrol around the Market area. Investigating the source of the sound, they came across Sierra Leonean troops and dead civilians near and inside a store in Waterside. According to the witness, the civilians had been killed by the commander in charge of the Old Bridge and Water Street area.
The Court will hear two more witnesses tomorrow, Friday 24
[02/24/2023] Day Nineteen
Recap Day Nineteen: Looting civilians shot in Waterside
Today, the Court heard two additional witnesses in relation to the events around Waterside area in Monrovia.
The first witness, a former soldier serving on the government’s side during the Second Liberian Civil War, described his wartime experiences in Monrovia during the battles between LURD rebels and the government forces around the city center, especially Waterside area. The witness spoke of an incident, where some soldiers, including the witness himself, broke into a store. Soldiers at the scene were given an order to shoot civilians that had been looting.
The second witness worked in construction in Monrovia, when LURD rebels were facing the government forces around Waterside and Vai Town. He described the difficult food situation in the city at the time, leading many civilians to resort to looting. The witness described a specific incident, where soldiers were ordered to drive looting civilians away from a store, resulting in the killing of many people.
The Court concluded the proceedings for this week today and will continue on Monday 27 at 9 am with three additional witnesses.
[02/26/2023] Day Twenty
Recap Day Twenty: Looters targeted
Today, the Court began the fourth week of proceedings in Monrovia by hearing two witnesses.
The first witness testified about cooking for various troops in Waterside, when battles between government forces and LURD rebels were ongoing. He described an incident where a commander of the Sierra Leonean troops was killed. Following this, soldiers rounded up civilians that had been looting nearby shops under a bridge. The civilians were executed.
The second witness described meeting various RUF commanders in Monrovia. He had been at a base near Waterside when he heard heavy gunfire coming from nearby. He managed to get a closer look at the scene and saw looting civilians being executed near a store selling foodstuffs in Waterside.
The Court will continue its hearings tomorrow, Tuesday 28, at 9 am.
[03/02/2023] Day Twenty-three
Recap Day Twenty-three: Kamatahun Hassala hearings begin
Today, the Court moved on from Waterside to discuss events that occurred in and around Kamatahun Hassala, Lofa County, Liberia. The Court heard testimonies from three witnesses that had been living in different villages at the time of the events.
Two witnesses testified about civilians being captured from their villages and brought to Kamatahun Hassala, where they were imprisoned along with other civilians that had been captured from neighboring villages. The witnesses recounted how a commander ordered soldiers to lock the civilians in a house and burn it down with them inside. While they were different ages at the time, both witnesses lost family members during the course of these events.
Another of the witnesses was from Kiantahun. He recounted a similar story. On the first day of the incident, he had written the date of the event down on a blackboard. He had later written a list of people that had died in the burned house.
The Court will continue its hearings on this matter on Friday 3, 9am.
[03/03/2023] Day Twenty-four
Recap Day Twenty-four: Forced labor in Lofa
Today’s hearing was focused on forced labor imposed on civilians by soldiers in and around Foya, Lofa.
Three witnesses testified to being captured and rounded up in the town center of their villages. They described how soldiers looted belongings from their houses and forced them to carry the stolen goods on their heads across different villages to Foya. Once the groups arrived in Foya, the goods were presented by the soldiers to the commander.
While one civilian managed to escape along the way, the other two were held or imprisoned in a building in Foya for multiple days. One of the captives was able to escape with a friend, while the other was later released after appealing to the soldiers. Each witness described soldiers mistreating and killing civilians during these events.
Hearings will continue Monday 6, 9am.
[03/06/2023] Day Twenty-five
Recap Day Twenty-five: A former soldier testifies
On Monday, March 6, the Court returned to its examination of events in Kamatahun Hassala.
A former soldier that had worked with the government forces recounted his experience with RUF fighters in Lofa. He described coming from a checkpoint to the village, where he had seen a house on fire and was told that there were people inside the burning house. He then described escorting some of the perpetrators to Monrovia as a consequence for their participation in these events.
In the second part of his testimony, the witness gave his account on events that occurred later on in Waterside, Monrovia. He described arriving onto the scene when soldiers were ordered to kill civilians that had been looting.
The witness affirmed that it was the same person that had ordered the acts in both Kamatahun and Waterside.
[03/07/2023] Day Twenty-six
Recap Day Twenty-six: Lives lost in Lofa
On Tuesday March 7, the Court heard two witnesses, both of whom had been witness to
killings of civilians in the area.
The first witness described being rounded up with other civilians and taken to Kamatahun Hassala. He managed to escape, and from there he saw soldiers putting people into a house and setting it on fire. The next day, he saw the bodies of 7 women that had allegedly been raped outside the Blacksmith’s kitchen. The witness lost two family members in the course of these events.
The second witness was a victim of torture. He described being accused of being a rebel and being subject to acts of torture carried out to get him to confess. He also described other incidents that occurred in the area, such as the killing of a man and the extraction and cooking of his heart, as well as the burning of a house with people inside.
There will be no hearings tomorrow, Wednesday 8, as it is Decoration Day – a public holiday in Liberia.
[03/09/2023] Day Twenty-seven
Recap Day Twenty-seven: Tributes made in Kamatahun
On Thursday March 9, three witnesses from Kamatahun Hassala testified before the Court of Appeal.
Each witness testified to similar events of civilians from surrounding villages being rounded up by troops and taken to Kamatahun. The large group of people was assembled in the town center and locked in a house. Upon the orders of their commander, the soldiers set the house ablaze with the people still inside. The witnesses also all testified to a group of women being separated from the group and raped by soldiers during the course of these events.
Each witness also testified to different tributes that had been paid to the victims of these incidents. They described conducting sacrifices to honor those that had been killed, the ceremonial burying of their remains, and the building of a palaver hut in the centre of town.
The final hearing of the week will be held tomorrow, Friday 10.
[03/10/2023] Day Twenty-eight
Recap Day Twenty-eight: Women raped in Kamatahun
On Friday, March 10, the court heard three more witnesses from Kamatahun Hassala.
The first witness testified in a closed hearing, due to the sensitive nature of the events discussed.
The second and third witnesses spoke of people being brought to Kamatahun from neighboring villages and locked in a house that was set alight. They both also testified to a group of seven women being tied up, stripped naked, and brought to a building near a blacksmith’s kitchen. Both witnesses then described that they saw the women’s dead bodies the following day but were unable to bury their bodies until some time after, due to the continued presence of soldiers in the village. The witnesses had deduced from what they heard and saw throughout this incident that the women had been raped before they were killed.
The hearings have closed for the week and will resume on Monday 13, at 9am.
[03/13/2023] Day Twenty-nine
Recap Day Twenty-nine: An ex-government soldier testifies
On Monday 13, the Appeals Court heard a soldier that had fought with the Liberian government forces speak on events in Kamatahun Hassala.
The witness gave a detailed account of the different stages of the Second Civil War in Liberia, explaining the relationship between the Liberian government forces and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) from Sierra Leone. He then described the events of people being gathered from other villages and being put inside a house and the house being burned. The ex-soldier added that this event had caused tensions to form between the groups.
Due to a mix-up, the Court was not able to hear the second witness. Hearings will continue tomorrow, Tuesday 14.
[03/14/2023] Day Thirty
Recap Day Thirty: Back and forth between Monrovia and Lofa
On Tuesday 14, two witnesses testified.
The first witness spoke of her friend, who had been in a romantic relationship with the defendant. She described trips from Monrovia to Lofa, where she saw weapons stored in a secret room and wounded soldiers being brought in and out. Some trips had been taken by convoys of pickups, some by helicopter, and others by motorbike.
The second witness was an ex-soldier that had fought with government forces. He had been involved in fighting across both Monrovia and Lofa. He described the close relationship between the Liberian government forces and the RUF as the RUF supported the government on the frontline.
[03/14/2023] Day Thirty-one
Recap Day Thirty-one: An investigator explains
Today, the Court spent the day assessing one witness. He was the Liberian investigator that the Finnish Police had contracted to help them with their investigations and has been working on the case with them since 2019.
The witness testified to the various trainings that he has received. He talked the court through the different methods that he has used to locate and contact witnesses. A few times, he explained in depth how he came to be interested in a particular person, how he managed to reach them and how he had facilitated their contact with the Finnish police.
In addition, his personal notebook was analyzed page by page.
[03/16/2023] Day Thirty-two
Recap Day Thirty-two: Child Soldiers
Today the Court heard three soldiers about their experiences in connection with the Liberian Civil War.
The first witness told about his experience as a child soldier serving the government troops in Liberia.
The second witness used to work as a driver for the RUF and described his travels between Sierra Leone and Liberia during the Second Liberian Civil War.
The third witness told about being abducted as a child from Sierra Leone ny rebel forces and being brought to Monrovia, Liberia until the end of the war.
Tomorrow, the Court is scheduled to hear one witness. (Editor’s note: the hearing for Friday the 17th was cancelled due to the witness being dropped by the Prosecution. The Court will resume hearings on Monday the 20th.
[03/20/2023] Day Thirty-three
Recap Day Thirty-three: Sierra Leoneans in Monrovia
Today, the Court heard two witnesses about the events in Monrovia.
The first witness described his experiences serving in the NPFL during the Second Liberian Civil War. He met with the Sierra Leonean forces in Monrovia and witnessed a standoff between them and his Liberian commander after the Sierra Leoneans had killed civilians at Water Street.
The second witness spent time in Monrovia at the RUF guest house and described the arrival and stay of multiple RUF members from Sierra Leone. He also described them taking arms and ammunition from Monrovia to Lofa county.
Tomorrow, the Court will begin the day by watching a video recording of the testimony of a witness who testified at the District Court, who has since passed away. In addition, one witness is scheduled to appear before the Court tomorrow.
[03/21/2023] Day Thirty-four
Recap Day Thirty-four: Torture in Klay
Today, the Court began the session by watching a video recording of the testimony that a recently deceased witness had previously given at the District Court.
The rest of the day was spent hearing one witness. He was the victim of torture allegedly perpetrated by Gibril Massaquoi, who was instructed to obtain a confession from him regarding a suspected plot to overthrow the then-President Charles Taylor. The witness described his arrest and initial interrogation by Charles Taylor, and then the multiple places where he was taken and held prisoner. He gave a detailed account of the acts of torture that the defendant had either ordered or carried out personally. The witness, who had always denied the allegations, was held for a number of days and only released once a foreign government and international NGOs had put pressure on Charles Taylor to do so.
Court proceedings will continue tomorrow, Wednesday March 22.
[03/22/2023] Day Thirty-five
Recap Day Thirty-five: A former child soldier testifies
This morning, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone came to testify. He had been captured by rebel groups in Sierra Leone at a young age, fighting first in Sierra Leone and later in Liberia. He described fighting and the mistreatment of civilians across Kolahun and surrounding areas such as Kamatahun, before moving to Monrovia. Once in Monrovia, he described further fighting across the city, including at Waterside.
The witness later described being in Monrovia at the ceasefire which ended the Second Civil War, where fighting factions packed up their weapons to give to the UN. At this point, according to the witness, Gibril Massaquoi had already left Liberia.
There are no hearings scheduled tomorrow Thursday 23, so the Court will reconvene Friday 24, 9am.
[03/27/2023] Day Thirty-seven
Recap Day Thirty-seven: Schedules rearranged
Over the weekend, the Court had to rearrange the schedule of the witness hearings as a number of witnesses had been dropped by both the prosecution and the defense.
Today Monday 27, the Court heard the recording of a testimony that one of the witnesses had previously given at the District Court. Appeals Court hearings will continue tomorrow, Tuesday 28.
[03/28/2023] Day Thirty-eight
Recap Day Thirty-eight: Witness allegedly approached for testimony
On Tuesday 27, the Appeals Court heard one witness testify. He testified that he had been approached by Hassan Bility, who had allegedly offered him money and asylum in Europe to provide false testimonies in the cases of different Liberian nationals before foreign courts. The witness testified to having no connection to Gibril Massaquoi and stated he had not participated in the Second Liberian Civil War.
For the second part of the day, the Court watched the tape of a hearing that a witness had given before the District Court.
[03/29/2023] Day Thirty-nine
Recap Day Thirty-nine: Defense witnesses testify
Today Wednesday 29, the Court heard three witnesses that had been called by the defense.
The first witness was a journalist, who had been staying in Buedu, Sierra Leone. He had come across many people that had fled from different villages in Liberia and were on their way to refugee camps in Sierra Leone. The witness had interviewed some of these people, regarding events such as that which had taken place in Kamatahun Hassala. A copy of this report was submitted as written evidence for the Court to review.
The second witness was a key figure in the RUF external delegation. He had stayed in the same guesthouses in Monrovia as Gibril Massaquoi and the two had worked closely together. This witness maintained that while the defendant had initially been a front-line commander, during the peace process he had taken on a diplomatic role.
The final witness was a soldier for the Liberian forces. He testified to meeting Gibril Massaquoi first in Foya, and then in Monrovia. He described coming across a number of dead bodies next to a bridge in Waterside, Monrovia. When he asked Massaquoi what had happened, Massaquoi allegedly responded that they had been looting.
The Court will hear two more witnesses tomorrow Thursday 30.
[03/30/2023] Day Forty
Recap Day Forty: Witnesses submit evidence
On Thursday 30 March, the Court heard two defense witnesses.
The first witness had been working with the Special Security Service with Benjamin Yeaten in Monrovia. The witness stated that he had been arrested for allegedly conspiring against the President and was taken to Klay where he was interrogated and tortured. He testified to having been tortured only by Liberians soldiers and had not seen Gibril Massaquoi during the period of his detention. This witness had made written notes about his arrest, detention and torture and his notebook was submitted to the Court.
The second witness had been captured as a child and forced to join a rebel group. He testified to travelling from Sierra Leone to Liberia and staying at a safehouse in Monrovia with the rebels. One day when the rebels were fleeing the house, the witness came across some photos placing Gibril Massaquoi and other key commanders in Kamatahun, which he had kept. Later, once the witness had heard about the Gibril Massaquoi trial on the news, he submitted the photos to the Finnish police.
The Court will hear two more witnesses tomorrow, Friday 31.
[03/31/2023] Day Forty-one
Recap Day Forty-one: Defense witnesses provide context
On Friday 31 March, the Court heard two defense witnesses. Both had been in close contact with Gibril Massaquoi since the 90s, when the defendant was an active member of the RUF in Sierra Leone. They both described his role as the personal assistant to the leader of the RUF, the late Foday Sankoh. Both witnesses gave detailed accounts as to Massaquoi’s relations with other key figures within the group.
Both witnesses testified to accompanying Massaquoi on numerous trips between Freetown, Abuja, and Monrovia. The defendant and the witnesses had gone on these trips to meet with state leaders and international organizations to work on the peace process and solidify ceasefire and disarmament.
[04/03/2023] Day Forty-two
Recap Day Forty-two: Former RUF members testify
Today Monday 3 was the first day of the last week of this phase of the Appeals Court’s hearings in Monrovia. The Court heard 3 more defense witnesses who had travelled from Sierra Leone to testify.
The first witness described spending a lot of time with Gibril Massaquoi during their time in the RUF. He was asked about events between 1999 and 2003, Mr Massaquoi’s whereabouts in Sierra Leone and trips to Liberia that the two had made during this time.
The second witness described being a bodyguard to the RUF leader Foday Sankoh. He spoke about the attack on Sankoh’s residence in Freetown, during which he was also captured. The witness spent multiple years in prison during the 2000s.
The third witness also knew Mr Massaquoi from the RUF. His questioning focused on the code names and war names Mr Massaquoi used in Sierra Leone. Also discussed was whether other people in the RUF had used similar war names to those that some witnesses had alleged that Mr Massaquoi had used in Liberia.
Tomorrow Tuesday 4 is the last day of this phase of hearings. The Court is scheduled to hear 2 more defense witnesses from Sierra Leone, before flying back to Finland. Hearings will recommence after the Easter break, on Wednesday, April 12.
[04/04/2023] Day Forty-three
Recap Day Forty-three: Final day in Monrovia
This Tuesday 4 April was the last day of this round of hearings in Monrovia.
The Appeals Court heard two witnesses, both from Sierra Leone. The first witness had worked with the Witness Protection Unit at the Special Court of Sierra Leone. He described the high security arrangements surrounding the safehouses and highlighted the fact that no one living inside them could have left without prior agreement and with a security detail. The second witness was a family member of Gibril Massaquoi, who testified to him being in Sierra Leone at different periods across 2001 to 2003, to help her with her Paramount Chief election campaigning.
The Appeals Court will be flying back to Finland over the next few days. There will be a break for Easter, and then the hearings will continue again in Turku.
[04/12/2023] Day Forty-four
Recap Day Forty-four: The Court returns to Finland
Today, the Court had its first hearing back in Finland after returning from Liberia. It heard two witnesses called by the Defense.
The first witness, a family member of Mr Massaquoi, described life under the protection of the Special Court for Sierra Leone after Mr Massaquoi agreed to testify.
The second witness, a former official at the Special Court, was asked about the details of Mr Massaquoi’s witness statements and the protection he was afforded by the Special Court.
The Court will continue tomorrow by examining various types of evidence and hearing one additional witness.
[04/13/2023] Day Forty-five
Recap Day Forty-five: Various evidence admitted
Today, the Court examined various types of evidence relating to the case. First, the parties drew the Court’s attention to written evidence submitted in relation to a particular witness’ statement, who had subsequently declined testifying in the case.
Afterwards, the Court watched the recording from District Court of an another witness who had also declined to testify in the Appeals Court.
The last witness of the day, heard via video link, was a criminal investigator for the Special Court of Sierra Leone.
[04/14/2023] Day Forty-six
Recap Day Forty-six: Experts heard
Today, the Court finished the April sessions in Finland by hearing the opinion of two experts in psychology.
The first expert to be heard was called by the Prosecutor during the Appeals Court phase, in response to the report previously presented to the District Court by another expert. The expert discussed, among other things, the effect of trauma on witness testimony and how witness recollections may change over time after experiencing highly traumatic events. Also presented was a critique of the expert report that the District Court had relied upon on in their deliberations.
The second expert had authored the report used during the District Court phase and was called to respond to this critique. In fact, both experts actually agreed on a number of issues relating to witness psychology and trauma. Some differences, however, still remained between the two.
The Court will not be in session for the next few weeks and will resume its hearings in early May in Monrovia, Liberia.
[05/04/2023] Day Forty-seven
Recap Day Forty-seven: The Appeals Court returns to Monrovia
Today, the Appeals Court began its second official trip to Monrovia, Liberia to hear witnesses in the Gibril Massaquoi case.
This time, the Court is seeking to hear witnesses from neighboring Sierra Leone. Unlike during the Lower Court phase, the Finnish authorities did not manage to secure permission from the government of Sierra Leone for the Court to come to Freetown and hold hearings there. Therefore, the witnesses are being brought to Monrovia to testify.
No witnesses were heard in person today. The Court viewed one witness’ testimony from the District Court on a videotape, as they could not come to testify this time around. Additionally, the Court examined some written evidence brought by the Defense.
The Court will continue to hear witnesses tomorrow, Friday 5 May. This trip is scheduled to last until 12 May.
[05/05/2023] Day Forty-eight
Recap Day Forty-eight: Defense witnesses from Sierra Leone
Today, the Court heard the first witnesses of its second trip to Liberia. They had come from Sierra Leone to testify in Monrovia.
The first witness, a personal connection of Mr Massaquoi, described their relationship and Mr Massaquoi’s whereabouts from the years 1999 to 2003, the years under examination in this trial. The witness was also questioned about Mr Massaquoi’s family life before his entry into the witness protection program in Sierra Leone.
The second witness, a former RUF fighter, told the Court about an operation undertaken by the RUF in 2000, where troops crossed from Sierra Leone into Liberia. He also spoke of his encounters with Mr Massaquoi during the early 2000s.
The Court will continue hearing witnesses on Monday.
[05/08/2023] Day Forty-nine
Recap Day Forty-nine: Former RUF commander takes the stand
Today, the Court heard only one witness, a former RUF commander, who had known Gibril Massaquoi during the Sierra Leonean civil war.
The witness described his experience as a commander of an RUF battalion that moved from Sierra Leone to Liberia to secure a land route in Lofa county, leading from RUF-controlled areas in Sierra Leone to Monrovia, Liberia. This operation had been described earlier by other witnesses, who were part of the RUF forces that took care of the operation as well as Mr Massaquoi himself. The witness also testified about his and Mr Massaquoi’s whereabouts before and after the disarmament process in Sierra Leone, that ended its civil war.
[05/09/2023] Day Fifty
Recap Day Fifty: Former RUF members heard
Today, the Court heard two former RUF members called by the Defense of Mr Massaquoi.
The first witness, the former coordinator of education within RUF-controlled areas in Sierra Leone, testified about the various meetings they attended with Gibril Massquoi in Sierra Leone and other countries. They had also met Mr Massaquoi after the disarmament process had been completed in Sierra Leone and provided information to the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
The second witness was a former RUF radio operator, who used to work directly with Mr Massaquoi during the Sierra Leonean civil war. He described the whereabouts of Mr Massaquoi in different parts of Sierra Leone during the war and the disarmament process. He also stated that he had lived with Mr Massaquoi for a while after the war, before Mr Massaquoi began to cooperate with the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
The Court will continue the hearings on Wednesday 10, hearing two additional witnesses.
[05/10/2023] Day Fifty-one
Recap Day Fifty-one: RUF members meeting with Massaquoi
Today, the Court heard two former members of the RUF, who stated to have known Gibril Massaquoi during his time in the RUF.
The first witness had been a part of an RUF road-clearing operation in Liberia, while Mr Massaquoi was in Liberia. He also testified about his contact with Mr Massaquoi in Sierra Leone during and after the disarmament process.
The second witness had mainly been in contact with Mr Massaquoi in Sierra Leone. He had been involved in diamond mining for the RUF and testified about Mr Massaquoi’s presence in mining areas. He also testified about Mr Massaquoi’s whereabouts after the official ending of the war, as well as his activities in integrating former fighters back into society via a fishing project. He was also asked about the arrangements at Mr Massaquoi’s safe house, as he stated to have visited Mr Massaquoi there in 2003.
The Court is scheduled to continue the hearings tomorrow, Thursday 11, with two more witnesses.
[05/11/2023] Day Fifty-two
Recap Day Fifty-two: A new defense witness is heard
Today, the Court continued the hearings in Monrovia by hearing one new witness called by Mr Massaquoi’s defense. Another witness, also called by the Defense, did not come to testify.
The witness used to work as a radio operator for the RUF during the Second Liberian Civil War. He was sent to Liberia in 1999 and he spent time there until the latter end of the war in Sierra Leone, 2001-2002. He testified about the origins of the RUF operation in Liberia and the whereabouts of various RUF commanders in Lofa county, Liberia. In addition to Lofa county, he testified to being in the capital Monrovia in 2001.
The Court will end its second trip to Liberia tomorrow, Friday 12, by hearing one last witness. After that, the Court will return to Finland for the final phase of the trial. The next hearings are scheduled for the latter part of May and the trial is expected to conclude in early June.
[05/12/2023] Day Fifty-three
Recap Day Fifty-three: Final witness in Monrovia
Today, the Court ended its second trip to Monrovia, Liberia by hearing one additional witness.
The witness, a former RUF member and commander, testified about his relationship with Gibril Massaquoi, especially between 2001 and 2003. The witness testified that he lived with Mr Massquoi for a few years and participated in his fishing project preparations in Sierra Leone. The witness also testified that he had visited Mr Massaquoi in the Special Court safe house. The witness was questioned about these subjects by both parties, as there were some inconsistencies between his previous testimonies and that which he was giving the Court of Appeals.
Next, the Court of Appeals will return to Finland for the final phase of the proceedings. The next hearings are scheduled for the latter part of May.
[05/23/2023] Day Fifty-four
Recap Day Fifty-four: The Court returns to Turku, Finland
Today, the Turku Court of Appeals resumed its hearings in Finland in the Massaquoi case.
The Court began by listening to the recording of a pre-trial investigation interview of a witness, who could not make it to Monrovia while the Court was there this month due to health reasons. While in Monrovia, the Court concluded that it would be nearly impossible to hear this and another witness from Sierra Leone during the current proceedings without unduly postponing the procedure. The Court therefore decided to admit their pre-trial statements.
The witness testified about being a protected witness of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, much like Mr Massaquoi. The witness had discussed with the Finnish police the security arrangements in his and Mr Massaquoi’s safe houses and their possible shortcomings.
The Court also heard a new witness that was called by the defense of Mr Massaquoi via video link from the Netherlands. The witness testified that she was a cook in the safe house where Mr Massaquoi lived with his family in 2003.
The Court will continue the proceedings tomorrow, Wednesday 24, by admitting another pre-trial recording and hearing another new witness via video link.
[05/24/2023] Day Fifty-five
Recap Day Fifty-five: Safe house security examined
Today, the Court continued its hearings in Turku, Finland.
The Court began by hearing the pre-trial tape of a witness who could not make it to the hearing in Monrovia earlier this month. This witness told the Finnish police that he had worked as a security guard in the safe houses where Mr Massaquoi was kept as a protected witness of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. He was asked about the security arrangements at the safe house and whether Mr Massaquoi could have left the safe house while staying there.
The second witness of the day was heard via video link from abroad. He testified to having worked as a security guard in the safe houses where Mr Massaquoi lived from 2003 to 2005. Much like the first witness, this witness was questioned by the parties about the security arrangements and routines followed in the safe houses and whether Mr Massaquoi could have left the residence while staying there.
The Court is scheduled to continue the hearings next week, Monday 29.