Liberia War Crimes: Inconsistent testimonies plague Massaquoi trial

One witness said he narrowly escaped with others when Mr Massaquoi allegedly ordered his men to shoot, killing several people.

The prosecution case in the Finnish war crimes trial of Gibril Massaquoi, currently holding sessions in Liberia, has struggled with inconsistencies in the testimonies of witnesses to events that happened as long as 20 years ago.

None of the witnesses who testified this week has been able to establish the exact year the events they described took place.

Mr Massaquoi became a part of the Liberia United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) from 1999 to 2003 after serving with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) that waged war on Sierra Leone in 1991.

He is accused of the murder of civilians and other war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The inconsistencies in testimonies are a challenge for the prosecution team because there is no physical evidence and witness testimonies form the key part of the case.

But state prosecutor Tom Laitinen said he was confident that the consistency of the stories will override any inconsistencies in memories of dates and which faction Massaquoi was representing.

“There is no question that their testimonies are genuine and they are telling us the best that they know,” said Mr Laitinen.

But he conceded their memories of some aspects have been understandably faulty. “I cannot remember fully what happened to me 10 years ago, and the time of the witnesses’ experience has taken long.”

But in an interview defence lawyer Kaarle Gummerus said the inconsistencies undermined the case against his client. He also pointed to the witnesses’ repeated references to Mr Massaquoi as “Angel Gabriel” which prosecutors allege was one of Mr Massaquoi’s aliases during the war.

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