Liberia: Witness Tells Finnish Appeals Court EX-RUF Commander, Massaquoi Left Liberia in 2001

The biggest defense of Gibril Massaquoi is that he was not in Liberia during the time prosecutors say he committed his crimes.

MONROVIA – A witness has told a Finnish Appeals Court in Monrovia that a Sierra Leonean man accused of aggravated war crimes and aggravated crimes against humanity, including murders and rapes, was not in Liberia during a year prosecutors say he committed his crimes.

By Lennart Dodoo With New Narratives

Called by both prosecution and defense lawyers, “Defense 9,” also a Sierra Leonean claimed Massaquoi, a former commander for Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) was in his native country in 2001.

He told the Court on Monday that Massaquoi brought him to Liberia between 2000-2001 to be a caretaker for a guest house, Charles Taylor, the Liberian President at the time, had given to RUF soldiers, including Sam Bockarie, Issa Saysay and Kenneth McCauley, who had come to Liberia on a “diplomatic mission.”

“Charles Taylor was hosting us because he was supporting the RUF rebels in Sierra Leone,” said Defense 9.

In April 2012, the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone convicted and sentenced Taylor to 50 years in prison for supporting the war in that country.

2001 is one of the years prosecutors have alleged Massaquoi was in Liberia and carried out his atrocious crimes. 2002 and 2003 are the other years. Although the Pirkanma District Court ruled in April 2022 that prosecutors did not prove Massaquoi’s charges beyond “a reasonable doubt,” they are still making the argument on appeal—bringing witnesses they believe will help them prove that the Court wrongly ruled against them by acquitting Massaquoi. As they did in the District Court, Massaquoi’s lawyers are arguing on appeal that he was in Sierra Leone at the time of the alleged crimes, providing information to the Special Court.

Defense 9 seemed to have done just what they had called him for, liking Masaquoi to no crimes, although he said he was never on the frontlines. He did say that it was Massaquoi, Bockarie, Saysay, McCauley and one Abdul Razak, who frequently travelled to Lofa to fight rebels from the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy. The witness said the rebels were between the Liberian and Guinean borders.

But Defense 9 said in 2001, Taylor informed them that the international community had discovered he was hosting them, so he asked them to leave Liberia.

The witness said although he made several personal and mission trips to Liberia for the Special Court afterward, he never saw Massaquoi in Liberia.

The hearings continue on Tuesday.

The coverage of the appeal of Massaquoi’s acquittal is a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.

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