Liberia: Joseph Marzah, key Massaquoi ally, says Finnish Court got it wrong

Earlier this month I already reported on the acquittal of Gibril Massaquoi, who stood trial in Finland, accused of war crimes and human rights violations during Liberia’s civil war. See my post entitled Liberia war crimes: Sierra Leone rebel commander acquitted of rape, ritual murder and the recruitment of child soldiers.

The article below refers to statements made by Joseph Marzah, a former rebel-general and a former key ally of Gibril Massaquoi. Joseph Marzah, commonly known as “Zizar Marzah” said that the Finnish District Court got it wrong when it acquitted Massaquoi of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Liberia.

The reason for including Marzah’s observations and denial is to demonstrate the complexity of war crimes courts and the handling of accusations against suspected perpetrators of war crimes including ritualistic murders. The fact that during Liberia’s civil war(s) ritualistic activities including ritual murders have been committed is not disputed. For shortness sake I may refer here to the Final Report of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission released in 2009, which report provides ample examples of these horrific crimes.

(To be continued, see my May 24 posting)
(webmaster FVDK)

Liberia: Key Massaquoi Ally Says Finnish Court Got it Wrong

Published: May 17, 2022
By: FrontPage Africa – FPA Exclusive by Anthony Stephens with New Narratives

MONROVIA – A key former ally of Gibril Massaquoi, the Revolutionary United Front commander, says a Finnish District Court got it wrong when it acquitted Massaquoi of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Liberia.

Joseph Marzah, commonly known as “Zizar Marzah”, was a fierce general with then-president Charles Taylor’s forces in the period Finnish prosecutors alleged Massaquoi conducted his crimes during a trial that lasted more than a year. Marzah was a key figure, accused repeatedly by witnesses of atrocities allegedly committed with Massaquoi in Lofa County. In an exclusive interview with New Narratives last week at his residence along the Monrovia-Robertsfield highway, Marzah insisted Massaquoi was among the RUF troops Taylor sent to Liberia to help defend his government against the uprising by the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel group that would eventually drive Taylor to resign in August 2003.

In an 850-page ruling, the Finnish judges found there was “reasonable doubt” as to whether Massaquoi, who denied the charges, was in Liberia when the alleged crimes took place. They acquitted Massaquoi of all charges. Prosecutors plan to appeal.

“Gibril Massaquoi fully took part in war here,” Marzah said listing the Lofa towns he was with Massaquoi. “He passed through the towns of Zorzor, Fessibu and Vasala.”

Marzah said Massaquoi was decorated with the rank of Captain at Taylor’s direction because of his strong performance on the frontlines of battle.

“Gibril Massquoi was assigned to me. When we sent him for our logistics like arms and ammunition, he went for them and brought them to us,” said Marzah. “Where there was intense fighting, he joined us to fight. In 2001 and 2002, he was with us, and we battled LURD in Chicken Soup Factory, Double Bridge, ELWA and Shefflin.”

Marzah’s claims back the allegations put forward by Finnish prosecutors that Massaquoi had been active in Liberia’s second civil war between 1999 and 2003. The indictment alleged Massaquoi committed rape, torture, ritual murder, torture and recruitment of child soldiers in villages in Lofa County in the years 2000-2002.

In the most shocking crime heard during trial, Liberian witnesses testified that dozens of women and children were forced into a kitchen building that was set alight, burning them to death.

Marzah, no doubt mindful of his own risk of prosecution, did not concede that he and Massaquoi committed any crimes. But he insisted Massaquoi was with him, as many had witnesses testified, in Lofa during the 2001-2002 period.

“If Gibril Massaquoi denies that he was with me, NPFL, I would like for us to sit face-to-face (in court) so that I can question him like the scenario between Taylor and I. I fear nothing.”

However, Marzah cast doubt on the most contentious prosecution accusation: that Massaquoi escaped a UN-backed safehouse in Freetown between June and August 2003 to fight for Taylor in the Waterside area of Monrovia. 

“In 2003, I only heard that he came (from Sierra Leone) and went back. I was assigned to Grand Cape Mount County at the time.”

Marzah claimed Massaquoi escaped Liberia in 2002 after he stole from Taylor.

“After we had made two trips (with two jars of diamonds) along with the logistics to Taylor, he left us because he ran away with the third jar of diamonds,” said Marzah. “When the order came that if we saw Gibril Massaquoi, we should execute him because of the diamonds he stole and ran away with, I didn’t see him then.”

Massaquoi’s Lawyer, Kaarle Gummerus denied commenting on Marzah’s allegations, telling this reporter in a WhatsApp message “the defense does not feel the need to comment on Mr. Marzah’s allegations”.

Marzah said he was approached by representatives of the Finnish investigators in the case and was willing to testify. He did not say why he was not called to give evidence.

In a WhatsApp message Tom Laitienen, the Chief Prosecutor for the case said “We considered Marzah as a witness, but practical issues hindered us from hearing him. We will most likely consider him again if he agrees to testify.”

When pressed as to what the practical issues may have been Laitinen said “unfortunately, I cannot discuss them in detail, but they include his possible role in the suspected crimes and his role as a witness to the Special Court.”

It is not clear that Marzah’s testimony would have made a difference in the verdict. The court found many of the witnesses, including those who claimed to be ex-soldiers of Charles Taylor’s army, were unreliable. It said they had provided contradictory and inconsistent statements between the investigation and the trial. The court found it likely they had been influenced to a degree.

“The witnesses’ accounts have been very similar in some respects, and in some respects they have changed in court in the same way compared to the pre-trial phase,” said the ruling. “This has been the case in particular with regard to the time of the events. This suggests a kind of collective processing of the facts on the basis of which the witnesses formed their perceptions, or at least external influences. In some respects it has been difficult to distinguish between what was based on the witness’s own observations and what was otherwise based on information obtained by the witness. These factors undermine the reliability and relevance of individual reports as evidence.”

While the court was persuaded that Massaquoi, whose testimony played a key role in the conviction of Taylor and a dozen top rebel leaders in the Special Court for Sierra Leone, held very high rank in the RUF, it was not convinced he committed war crimes in Liberia.

The Court’s ruling was almost entirely about inconsistencies in the witnesses’ testimonies. It cited as examples, where some of the witnesses were not exact about key dates and names of individuals who may have carried out crimes. In one instance, witnesses accused Massaquoi of being responsible for mass killings in Kamatahun, Lofa County. In another instance, they attributed the crimes to Marzah.

“It has emerged from several witness accounts that “Zig Zag” Marzah or “Stanley” [another Taylor commander] had been responsible for the burning of people in the Lofa area, especially in Kamatahun.”  

Marzah Denies Allegations

Marzah, now 64 and living in a remote part of his native Nimba County, denies he committed any atrocities.

He claimed to have provided safety for members of the Gbandi tribe, who were allegedly burnt alive in buildings, because, he claimed, his wife was a Gbandi woman. Marzah denied he was in the town when the alleged killings took place.

“It was Benjamin Yeaten [another top Taylor commander known as “Chief 50”] who sent Brigadier General Gourtor, [known as “Idi Amin” after the late Ugandan President], “Butu Lazen” and the late “Busy Boy”. They went to Kamatahun Hassala to carry out those executions,” Marzah alleged.

Yeaten, whose whereabouts are unknown, was mentioned many times by witnesses. They told the court Yeaten was very close to Taylor and coordinated the operations of government and RUF forces. Taylor, who is currently serving a 50-year sentence in a British jail for aiding and abetting Sierra Leone’s civil war, funded the operations of the RUF by giving them arms and ammunitions in exchange for diamonds according to the Special Court. 

Marzah said there were times that both RUF and Taylor’s forces backed up each other, depending on the scale of the attacks they experienced from opponents.

Special Court former Trial Attorney Backs Marzah’s Comments

Marzah’s comments were backed up by Chris Santora, a former Trial Attorney for the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone and on the Taylor trial.

“Whoever really understands well the history of the links between Charles Taylor and the RUF trial knows that top RUF commanders were often in Liberia interacting at many levels with Benjamin Yeaten and Charles Taylor throughout 2000 and 2001,” said Santora.

“The reasons were many not least of which was Taylor’s use of the RUF in his own war in Liberia but also this was when the diamond pipeline was at its peak as the RUF had firm control of the diamond areas of Kono. Many of these RUF commanders including Massaquoi were back and forth frequently through 2001 as they were running diamonds. (sometimes their own side deals others through Taylor) The finding of the Finish District Court which says that Gibril Massaquoi was not anymore traveling at all to Liberia after June 2001 does not accord with the overwhelming evidence I myself have seen. It doesn’t make sense in the larger context of events at that time period,” said Santora.

Marzah Supports a War Crimes Court for Liberia

Once considered a Taylor trusted general, Marzah, dismissed allegations that he betrayed his former boss. But he said he did oppose Taylor by the end. He was  “killing our people slowly,” Marzah said. He blamed Taylor for the murders of a long list of individuals, including Enoch Dogolea, Taylor’s first Vice President and Samuel Dokie, a leading opposition politician with the Unity Party at the time.

Marzah is ranked 66th on a list of 100 most notorious perpetrators recommended for prosecution for gross human rights violations by Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But in the interview he expressed support for a war crimes court and said he was willing to appear.

“I prefer it to be in Liberia,” he said. “There are some wicked people. Some did nothing, some went in the government because they have connections. Some carried out destruction. So, it’s better for the war crimes court to come to sifter all of us. I am willing for it to come. That’s the time we all will explain everything in detail.”

Prosecutors will file a motion to appeal the District Court’s acquittal in coming weeks.

This story was produced in collaboration with New Narratives as part of its West Africa Justice Reporting Project.

Source: Liberia: Key Massaquoi Ally Says Finnish Court Got it Wrong

Liberia: contradicting statements on the occurrence of ritual killings; man arrested for the selling of human parts

In Liberia, not only impunity reigns – allowing ritual murderers as well as war criminals to walk free. These days also confusion reigns. What is true of the allegations that there’s a surge in ritual murders? Or is it a conspiracy of political opponents who want to discredit the Weah Administration, already heavily criticized for failing to deliver after the election promises which made tens of thousands of young Liberians to vote for the soccer legend?

Whereas the police downplays the present panic which make Liberians staying home after sunset, it also informed the public that a man was arrested with human parts in his possession, apparently for sale. There is only one explanation for this gruesome discovery: there is a market for human parts in Liberia where some people consider human organs and other human parts essential ingredients of ‘juju’. Every Liberian, Sierra Leonean, Gambian, Ghanian, Nigerian knows what ‘juju’ means.

‘Juju’ is being used either to protect, enrich or empower a person, or to put a magic spell on a known or unknown adversary. Belief in it is widespread in West Africa where ignorance and lack of education are the prime causes of the belief in superstition, facilitated by a weak rule of law and impunity resulting from protection by high-placed people. See also my October 1 post (webmaster FVDK).

Alleged Ritualistic Killings in Liberia: False Alarms Or Poor Investigative Skills?

Published: October 4, 2021
By: Obediah Johnson – Front Page Africa, Liberia 

MONROVIA — It appears that the combat against alleged acts of ritualistic killings and kidnapping which have widely been widely reported in Monrovia and other parts adjacent in recent times are far from being thoroughly investigated, culprits arrested and prosecuted, as evidenced by the Minister of Justice Counselor Frank Musa Dean accusing those raising alarms of reportedly failing to aid investigations.

Liberians and other foreign residents in the country continue to wake up to news of kidnapping and the gruesome murders of citizens, especially females in few communities in Montserrado County on a regular basis.

Parts are extracted from the remains of the victims by the unknown perpetrators for ritualistic purposes.

The current situation has instilled fears in Liberians and foreign residents, compelling them to return from their various working and selling places earlier than before.

It has also raised questions and doubts over the ability of state security actions to provide security to Liberians and other foreign residents.

Not showing up

But responding to an inquiry from FrontPage Africa over the week end, Cllr. Dean pointed out that most of those claiming to have been kidnapped have not been coming forth to help the police with investigations.

He made specific reference to one Solomon, who claimed to have been allegedly kidnapped from Caldwell and taken to Gbartala, Bong County.

Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue recently informed the public that the information provided to the police by Solomon was false and misleading.

Phone records which were subpoenaed by the police show that the alleged victim never left Montserrado County all during his alleged kidnapping tale.

According to the records quoted by the IG, Solomon was in Clara Town, Vai Town, New Kru Town, among other places, throughout during his alleged ordeal.

Opposing Pastor’s request

Cllr. Dean pointed out that since raising the false alarm, Solomon has not shown up despite efforts applied by state investigators to request his Pastor, who was not named, to convince him to do so.

“This guy has refused to come forward to aid the police investigation. We summoned his call log. On the day he should have been in the custody of kidnappers in Gbatala, the call log placed him in Dixville and New Kru Town. We contacted his Pastor to bring him in. He is not cooperating with his Pastor”.

Last week, the Liberia National Police arrested a stalwart of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Jethro Saylah Kangar Harris, for allegedly spreading misinformation of ritualistic killing on Facebook.

FrontPageAfrica gathered that Kangar had reportedly posted a picture of a young girl alongside a picture of an open corpse on an autopsy table.

“I’m in tears tonight. It’s so painful how the young people of Liberia are dying mysteriously. This is the late Rolisa N. Gbeintor, alumnae of the Lenn Millar High School. She was murdered and parts of her body were extracted. She had dreams; she had a great future ahead of her but there she lies dead without understanding how”, Harris posted.

Karnga was arrested in Ganta, Nimba County while on a tour with the ANC’s standard bearer, Alexander B. Cummings. He has spent days behind bars.

Family not identified

But Cllr. Dean latest response to the reported death of Rolisa appears like no formal complaint has been made by the family to the LNP.

“We are searching for the parents and family members of Rolisa Gbeintor, who was supposed to have been gruesomely killed”, Cllr. Dean stated.

Another kidnapping story

In another video that went viral on the social media last week, a young lady claimed that she was allegedly kidnapped by a bike rider and another passenger while on her way Red Light to buy her goods.

According to the unidentified lady, a white handkerchief was used by the passenger who sat at her back and she was taken around the Coca Cola Factory Community in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.

She claimed that while her face was tied with a black cloth, she was placed in a black jeep and taken to an unknown destination.

“I saw myself in an unfinished building when they took the cloth from my face and I saw five other women that they kidnapped too. They started to carry them one, one in the slaughter room. I could only hear ‘my people your come, God come for me…they are talking this other parts from on me oh. I was the fifth person and when they carried me in the room, I saw the other table and they had different, different instruments for human parts. They put me on the big table and tore my blouse on me, took off the trouble but my woman sickness (menstruation) was on me”.

“They said but how your bought this chicken here; your know the chicken looking like this and we can’t use it for sacrifice so your put the chicken back outside. That’s how they took me down from the table and carry me back in the room. The other woman too had the same woman sickness on her. So, they said they can’t make sacrifice with us so, let just keep them here and in the night we can go dump them by the wayside. They tied our faces from four in the evening Tuesday with the same black cloth and drove us on the road back in the night. We only saw ourselves in front Coca Cola factory”, the unidentified lady stated.

The lady added that she later decided to take the complaint to Zone 5 in the same area, but since then, she has not been called for further questioning.

Lady escaping?

But according to Cllr. Dean, the lady in question has not shown up for further investigations since she provided her initial statement at the headquarters of the Liberia National Police (LNP) on the Capitol Bye-Pass in Monrovia.

He further doubted the possibility of a slaughterhouse being in the densely populated suburb of Paynesville, outside Monrovia.

“From the day this girl came to the Police Headquarters and provided her initial Statement and said she was going to the doctor to return, she has gone underground. Even her family cannot locate her. Where are the families of the slaughtered people? A human slaughter house in Paynesville, such a populated area?”

Will prosecute PLP suspended SG

Meanwhile, Cllr. Dean has pointed out that the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Justice will formally charge and prosecute the suspended acting Secretary General of the People’s Liberation Party (PLP) for illegally possessing and discharging firearm.

Executive members of the Organizing Committee of the PLP suspended the acting Secretary General of the party, Mr. David Woods Beyan, for lying that he was shot by unknown armed robbers, after the police preliminary investigation proved otherwise.

It can be recalled that Mr. Beyan, who is also a founding member of the PLP, claimed that around 3AM on Friday, September 24, 2021, he was shot by unknown armed men for unspecified reasons while on his way home from Kakata, Margibi County where he had reportedly gone on a party function and to attend a family meeting

He told FrontPage Africa via telephone that he noticed two motorbikes carrying four persons tailing him from Mount Barclay and while In the middle of the Parker Paint road, one of the riders reportedly crossed in front his vehicle with speed.

Mr. Beyan claimed that he later got down from his vehicle, in an attempt to compel the bike rider to remove his bike. He was later overpowered by the men and shot on his left thigh.

“They had mask on their faces and I couldn’t recognize any of them. After one of them shot me, they got on the motorbikes and escaped. Right now, I am still feeling pain in my thigh” he told FrontPage Africa via telephone from his hospital bed.

But Cllr. Dean pointed out that the victim shot himself.

His clarification corroborates with information provided by IG Sudue when he appeared on State radio on Wednesday, September 29, 2021.

Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue disclosed that Mr. Beyan told nurses assigned at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center where he had gone for treatment that he mistakenly shot himself in the leg, and the firearm used has been retrieved.

 “This guy shot himself. He carried a weapon he did not know how to operate. We will prosecute him for illegal possession and discharge of firearm” Cllr. Dean stated.

Ghost town

The growing wave of reported kidnapping and ritualistic killings across Monrovia and other parts of the country continue to instill fears in citizens and foreign residents

In Monrovia and other parts adjacent, the streets appear like a “ghost town” and are partially empty as a result of the situation.

Marketers, workers and others are often seen in a hurry during the early evening hours, abroading commercial or private vehicles, tricycles and motorbikes to reach to their respective homes or destinations in a timely manner.

Owners of various businesses, including shops, stores, and supermarkets are constrained to shutdown far sooner than their usual closing times due to the growing wave of insecurity in the post-conflict nation.

It remains unclear whether or not fears of the growing wave of insecurity in Liberia will continue to grapple economic activities or the free movement of citizens and others as state security actors continues to allow those raising alarms to cajole them by giving or falsifying stories that would allow them to escape from investigations.

State actors’ failure

The failure of state security actors, particularly investigators of the Liberia National Police (LNP) to implore additional skills to unearth the truth behind some of these reported kidnapping and ritualistic killings or intensify efforts to hunt and bring forth for investigations those involved or accused remain a major problem confronting the security sector.

On the other hand, the Government of Liberia (GOL), through the Ministries of Justice and Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism has not been able to swiftly and adequately respond to videos or photos on kidnapping and ritualistic killings before it goes viral on the social media by critics of the regime, who normally share those videos or photos to satisfy their political or ulterior motives.

This continues to hamper and paint the image, particularly the security condition of Liberia bad to the outside world, especially foreign investors contemplating on coming into the country to do businesses.

Source: Alleged Ritualistic Killings in Liberia: False Alarms Or Poor Investigative Skills?

And:

Police probe man who confessed to ritualistic activities

Published: October 4, 2021
By: Lincoln G. Peters – The New Dawn, Edited by Winston W. Parley

The Liberia National Police (LNP) says it has arrested and is investigating a 22 – year -old man for his alleged confession of being involved in the kidnapping and selling of human parts across the country.

Suspect Gbala Samula was arrested Saturday, 2 October 2021 in VOA Community, Brewerville, Montserrado County, by the Zone 6 police detachment for allegedly confessing that he has negotiated to sell human parts to a funeral home based in the VOA Community around the beachside.

The accused was not arrested with human parts, but trading in human parts could be considered ritualistic activity.

Confirming the arrest and investigation of suspect Samula, Police Spokesman Moses Carter told our reporter in a telephone conversation Sunday, 3 October that police are having the suspect in their custody for investigation over his alleged role in the kidnap and selling of human parts.

According to Carter, the suspect allegedly told the police that he was convinced by his friend to join him in the kidnapping of human beings and selling of human parts across the country, on grounds that it has money. Carter said the suspect did not name the friend, neither did he state where the friend was residing.

The police spokesman explained further that the funeral home that the suspect, Samula referenced has denied his allegations, saying it is in no business of buying human parts.

Carter refused to disclose the name of the funeral home but pointed out that police are investigating the suspect and if he fails to provide his colleagues and other information, he will be jailed for spreading falsehood and causing panic in the country.

But speaking in a live interview with local broadcaster Voice of Liberia (VOL) Saturday, 2 October 2021 at the Zone 6 police detachment in Brewerville, suspect Samula said he came from Sawelor Town in Grand Cape Mouth County and to live with his big brother in Brewerville, VOA Community.

Suspect Samula narrated that he was engaged by a guy who had proposed that they should sell human beings to get money.

Source: Police probe man who confessed to ritualistic activities

And:

As Police Vows To Arrest Alarming Posters On Social Media, Man Arrested For Alleged Ritualistic Activities

Published: October 4, 2021
By: Cholo Brooks – GNN, Liberia

Barely a week now since the leadership of the Liberia National Police (LNP) vowed to bring to book of those who post on social media of mysterious killings and disappearances, latest report being highlighted in the media over the weekend has indicated that the police has arrested and is investigating a 22 – year -old man for his alleged confession of being involved in the kidnapping and selling of human parts across the country.

Suspect Gbala Samula was arrested Saturday, 2 October 2021 in VOA Community, Brewerville, Montserrado County, by the Zone 6 police detachment for allegedly confessing that he has negotiated to sell human parts to a funeral home based in the VOA Community around the beachside.

The accused was not arrested with human parts, but trading in human parts could be considered ritualistic activity.

Confirming the arrest and investigation of suspect Samula, Police Spokesman Moses Carter told our reporter in a telephone conversation Sunday, 3 October that police are having the suspect in their custody for investigation over his alleged role in the kidnap and selling of human parts.

According to Carter, the suspect allegedly told the police that he was convinced by his friend to join him in the kidnapping of human beings and selling of human parts across the country, on grounds that it has money. Carter said the suspect did not name the friend, neither did he state where the friend was residing.

The police spokesman explained further that the funeral home that the suspect, Samula referenced has denied his allegations, saying it is in no business of buying human parts.

Carter refused to disclose the name of the funeral home but pointed out that police are investigating the suspect and if he fails to provide his colleagues and other information, he will be jailed for spreading falsehood and causing panic in the country.

But speaking in a live interview with local broadcaster Voice of Liberia (VOL) Saturday, 2 October 2021 at the Zone 6 police detachment in Brewerville, suspect Samula said he came from Sawelor Town in Grand Cape Mouth County and to live with his big brother in Brewerville, VOA Community.

Suspect Samula narrated that he was engaged by a guy who had proposed that they should sell human beings to get money.

In a related development, the Liberia National Police says it has begun investigating social media false alarm posters, noting that it  has been drawn to the constant habit of some unscrupulous citizens who are bent on posting false alarm information intended to instill fear in citizens and residents of the country.

These false alarm posters are posting horrible photos and videos of fake incidents which are solely intended to portray the country as unsafe and instill fear in the citizenry of the country.

Hence, LNP investigators with immediate effect have been mandated by the Inspector General of Police, Hon. Patrick Sudue to ensure that the social media is monitored regularly and that those who post information aimed at creating fear must be invited for questioning and subsequent prosecution if probable cause is established.

The LNP admonishes administrators of various social media chatrooms to scrutinize information that is placed in their various chatrooms and report those who are in the constant habit of posting said information.

The LNP will not hesitate to ensure that administrators of chatrooms who do not exercise due diligence in the contents that are posted on their various platforms are invited for questioning.

To this end, the LNP envisages that a proper scrutiny of various information placed in chatrooms by administrators will curtail the barrage of inciteful and fearful photos and videos that are circulating on social media.

Together, we can help to make Liberia a better and peaceful nation for all.  It press release issued by H. Moses Carter, Sr., Head Press and Public Affairs  Liberia National Police (U-122)  Tel: 0770800122, noted

Source: As Police Vows To Arrest Alarming Posters On Social Media, Man Arrested For Alleged Ritualistic Activities