Defence strikes big blows in Liberia war crimes trial

The testimony of the two researchers helped narrow down the question of dates that has plagued this trial.

By New Narratives        

Gibril Massaquoi, the former RUF commander accused of committing war crimes in Liberia

The defence team in the trial of Gibril Massaquoi, the former RUF commander accused of committing war crimes in Liberia, has had some big wins in the concluding weeks of the trial in Tampere, Finland.

Since it resumed in Tampere, after three months hearing testimonies in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the trial has narrowed to two questions: What were the dates of the events for which Massaquoi is accused? And, have dozens of Liberian witnesses got the wrong man when they claimed “Angel Gabriel” is the commander with a Sierra Leonean accent that they say direct the atrocities?

Among the witness in this final part of the trial in the southern Finnish city where Massaquoi was living when he was charged and arrested in March 2020 were two international researchers who extensively documented the atrocities in Liberia in the period in question – 2000 to 2003.

One told the court that she and a colleague had spoken with 61 witnesses who described atrocities in the Lofa, particularly the village of Kamatahun, which matched the descriptions given by many Liberian witnesses.

“They said many of those being taken to Kamatahun had been from Kiantahun. Afterwards, after an order of a commander, they were taken into three houses – one of the witnesses said four houses – and they were burnt alive,” the witness told the court.

The witnesses said the event took place between September and December 2001. The researcher had interviewed them between March and July, 2002, just months after the alleged atrocities took place.

The witness said five testimonies mentioned the infamous Taylor commander Ziza Maza. They also mentioned another top Taylor commander named Colonel Stanley and a number of lower level commanders.

Massaquoi’s lawyer Kaarle Gummerus asked the researcher, “Was there an Angel or Angel Gabriel mentioned in the interviews conducted by you or your colleague?”

The witness answered, “No, I do not recall that.”

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