Gibril Massaquoi is a former commander of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a notorious rebel group in Sierra Leone responsible for a long list of atrocities, human rights violations and war crimes. Massaquoi is a Sierra Leonian national and was arrested in Finland in March 2020; accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Liberia.
Gibril Massaquoi played an important role – as a key-witness – during the trial of warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor who was found guilty of war crimes and human rights violations in Sierra Leone and sentenced to 50 years in prison by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).
For briefness sake I refer to the following site for more background information on this person: Liberia: Past and Present of Africa’s Oldest Republic, click here.
Highly recommended reading is also Justice Info Net, in particular Thierry Cruvelliers’ contribution: THE MASSAQUOI AFFAIR: SPECIAL REPORT ON THE JUDAS OF SIERRA LEONE (PART 1 and PART 2).
Liberia war crimes: Sierra Leone rebel commander acquitted by court in Finland
Published: April 29, 2022
A court in Finland has acquitted a rebel commander of rape, ritual murder and the recruitment of child soldiers during Liberia’s civil war.
The court said there was not enough proof to convict Gibril Massaquoi.
The 52-year-old is from Sierra Leone and was a senior member of a notorious rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), that also fought in neighbouring Liberia from 1999 to 2003.
He had moved to Finland in 2008 and was arrested two years ago.
Mr Massaquoi was a school teacher when Sierra Leone’s civil war began in 1991. He joined the RUF, quickly rising through the ranks to become spokesman of the group which was notorious for atrocities such as hacking off the limbs of civilians, as well as murder and rape.
But he then gave evidence to the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone set up to investigate war crimes committed in that conflict.
He was relocated to Finland as part of a witness protection programme, which provided immunity for crimes committed in Sierra Leone, but not Liberia.
Prosecutors alleged that in Liberia, Mr Massaquoi had ordered buildings with people locked inside to be torched, and described the widespread rape and murder of civilians, often by enslaved child soldiers.
The ex-rebel said he was not in Liberia at the time.
The Finnish court had decamped to the Liberian capital, Monrovia, for a while to hear local testimony.
Around 250,000 people were killed during the internal conflicts that ended in 2003.
This was the first prosecution over Liberia’s civil war to be partially held in the country, although Mr Massaquoi remained in Finland.
Former Liberian President Taylor was convicted by an international criminal court in 2012 of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but that was in connection with the conflict in Sierra Leone. He is serving his 50-year sentence in a prison in the UK.
His son “Chuckie” Taylor was sentenced to 97 years in prison in a US federal court in 2009 for torturing and killing people while he was the head of Liberia’s anti-terrorist services.
Ex-warlord Mohammed “Jungle Jabbah” Jabateh has been jailed for 30 years in the US for lying about his past as a leader of a force that carried out multiple murders and acts of cannibalism.
And Alieu Kosiah was last year convicted of war crimes in Switzerland.