Gibril Massaquoi and his lawyer Paula Sallinen in the Turku Court of Appeal in January 2023. Image: Jesse Mäntysalo / Yle

Appeal court acquits Sierra Leonean man accused of war crimes

The ruling by the Turku Court of Appeal confirmed a lower court's 2022 verdict in the case.

The Turku Court of Appeal on Wednesday dismissed charges of war crimes against Gibril Massaquoi, a former leader of a Sierra Leonean rebel group which took part in both the Sierra Leonean and Liberian civil wars between 1999 and 2003.

Massaquoi, who has lived in Finland for more than a decade, was accused of ordering the murder, torture and mutilation of civilians when he was one of the leaders of the Revolutionary United Front RUF.

He was arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in March 2020 following the completion of an investigation that began in 2018.

Pirkanmaa District Court acquitted Gibril Massaquoi of the charges in April 2022, but the decision was appealed by the prosecutor in the case.

Acquitted on appeal

In its ruling, the Turku Court of Appeal states that it is impossible to rely on the statements of witnesses interviewed in the case and so acquitted Gibril Massaquoi of all charges.

According to the court, witnesses only identified the defendant as guilty of crimes committed 20 years earlier when it was publicised that Massaquoi had been arrested in Finland in spring 2020.

The Court of Appeal’s decision was in line with the earlier ruling by the Pirkanmaa District Court that it was not possible to obtain evidence to establish the defendant’s guilt.

According to the Court of Appeal, it has been proven that the acts described in the indictment occurred, but that it cannot be proven that the defendant was involved in any of the offences.

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