Liberia: Two More Witnesses Crown Week of Harrowing Testimonies of Alleged Rapes and Murders Against Ex-RUF Commander, Gibril Massaquoi

Gibril Massaquoi in a conversation with Paula Sallinen, one of his lawyers. Credit: Laslie Lumeh/New Narratives

MONROVIA—Two additional witnesses have told appeal hearings for Gibril Massaquoi, a former commander of Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front, RUF in Monrovia that he ordered civilians, including seven women to be raped and burnt alive in a house, crowning a week of harrowing testimonies and allegations against him.

By Forgbe Emma Kloh, with New Narratives

“Civilian 22,” Friday’s first witness, speaking in his native Gbandi language through an interpreter before the Turku Appeals Court of Finland alleged Massaquoi had ordered an open disgrace of the women in Kamatahum, Lofa County.

“They tied them up, took their clothes off and naked them,” said Civilian 22. “He (Massaquoi) gave orders that they should rape and kill them.”

The man claimed before Turku Court of Appeals that before the women were killed, they “were inside crying” and that he thought “they (soldiers) were raping them.”

On direct examination, Civilian 22 was certain about an alleged nickname of the mastermind of the alleged atrocities.

“There was one commander called Angel Gabriel,” he said.

Many prosecution witnesses have told the Tampare District Court, which acquitted Massaquoi of charges of aggravated war crimes and aggravated crimes against humanity in April 2021, that it was one of the names Massaquoi’s soldiers and comrade-in-arms called him by.

Civilian 22 said afterwards, he and others, who were in the town buried the women. He also alleged Massaquoi ordered separate killings after Massaquoi’s soldiers had gathered a group of civilians in a house.

“He said your (soldiers) go and kill them,” said Civilian 22. “And they put them in the house based on his orders and burnt it. I was not to a close range to see them, but I saw the flames of fire and heard the voices of the people crying in the fire.”

The witness also alleged Massaquoi and his soldiers looted zincs from houses in the town and transported them to Sierra Leone.

“There is a town called Gbandalo (in Sierra Leone, but close to Kamatahum), if you go there, you will see the zincs they took from Kamatahum.”

Aggravated murders, aggravated rapes and looting are among a litany of charges prosecutors are trying to prove on appeal that Massaquoi committed.

“Civilian 40,” another prosecution witness, accused Massaquoi of the same acts and said the former rebel commander spoke in a well-known language.

 “I heard him speak only Krio (a popular language in Sierra Leone),” said Civilian 40.

The witnesses alleged the acts happened between 2001 to 2002.

 “Civilian 11,” Friday’s first witness couldn’t testify because his testimony was closed to the public and media.

The hearings continue on Monday.

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