By Massa Washington
The trial of former RUF Rebel Commander, Gibril Massaquoi of Sierra Leone, ended on Friday, 10/08/2021 in Liberia. The trial returns to Finland where it will continue. For about 12 weeks, A Finnish court comprising four judges, held trials in Sierra Leone and Liberia for one time dreaded strongman of the infamous Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the Sierra Leonean rebel group of Foday Saybana Sankoh, known for hacking off the limbs of its victims amongst whom are women and children. Mr. Gibril Massaquoi, nom de guerre (Angel Gabriel), is standing trial for war crimes he allegedly committed in Liberia between 2003 while supposingly under the watch and supervision of the United Nations backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. Thesis of the prosecution case against Gibril Massaquoi is that the former rebel commander, while under surveillance of the UN backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2003, somehow was able to elude the system, travel to Liberia, reunite with his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel colleagues of Mr. Charles Taylor and committed war crimes.
Prosecution witnesses who were amongst 102 individuals to testify in the hearings, recounted incidents of horrendous violations of human rights; including rapes, tortures, forced labors, murders, dismemberment of victims and cannibalisms etc, by Massaquoi and his fellow rebel fighters in Liberia mainly occurring in Lofa County and Monrovia, Capital of Liberia. These accounts of despicable mass human sufferings allegedly at the hands of Massaquoi and cohorts, are the kinds of unimaginable psychological twisters that Hollywood Producer Quentin Tarantino horror movies are made of, except that this took place in real life.
While details of why Angel Gabriel is being tried in the first place are mind boggling and concerning, equally concerning and very serious in my view, is the interference of this judiciary process by perpetrators and their supporters with clear intent to discredit the process and abort the wheel of justice unfolding. A twisted and unfortunate highlight of the trial are accusations from at least three defense witnesses allegedly that Mr. Hassan Bility, Director of the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), who along with his Swiss Partner, Civitas Maxima, are at the forefront of investigations and research prosecutions of such crimes, bribed and coached witnesses to lie on; Mohammed Jabbateh aka Jungle Jabbah, Alieu Kosiah, Thomas Woewiyu, Agnes Reeves-Taylor and now Gibril Massaquoi. Angel Gabriel’s former partners in the NPFL alleged that Hassan Bility tried to induce them with promises of relocation and asylum in the UK for them and their families. They also claimed Hassan promised them a hefty purse of United States Dollars ranging from $16,000 to $20,000 respectively. Hassan Bility has since strongly rubbished the allegations as false and baseless, coming from an unholy union of his enemies consisting of some of his tribesmen who are upset that Bility, rather than shielding his tribe from prosecution even if they participated in war crimes, was in fact denouncing tribalism and raining in gross human rights violations regardless of their ethnicity. Inconsistencies in testimonies of these former rebel fighters and their collaborators also cast doubts on their stories of alleged inducement and witness tampering.
One such disgruntled individual is witness Varfley Dolleh who testified that Hassan Bility tried to recruit him to lie on others by offering him bribes and coaching him to commit fraud. But who exactly is witness Varfley Dolleh? Varfley Dolleh is a former Executive of ULIMO-K, one of the most vicious rebel factions in the Liberian war, headed by Alhaji Kromah. Amongst gross violations of human rights committed by ULIMO-K, the usage of human intestines at one of their checkpoints stands out. Mr. Dorley is a confidante of the Former Head of ULIMO-K, Mr. Alhaji G.V. Kromah. Varfley Dolleh was a Representative in the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) Parliament during the war when Liberia had several interim and transitional Council of States. He was representing his rebel group ULIMO-K and reported directly to Alhaji Kromah.
There are also those outside of Hassan Bility’s tribe that have “reasons” for wanting his head on the platter. Former Chief Investigator of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Dr. Alan White, faces scrutiny of his oversight because Gibril Massaquoi was under his watch and supervision at the time of the alleged commission of crimes in Liberia by Massaquoi and it was he Alan White who brokered the deal to have Massaquoi as a state witness. Then there is Agnes Reeves-Taylor, ex-wife of former leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, the NPFL, Charles Taylor, who is now serving a 50-year prison term in the UK. Agnes has orchestrated a smear campaign against Hassan Bility aimed at making him “pay” for being part of a process that saw her lose her opulent lifestyle in the UK and incarcerated in a British prison for more than two years. Former Mrs. Taylor was arrested on June 17 in London by the Metropolitan Police and charged with torture as a member of the NPFL rebels. However, The UK Central Criminal Court ruled on December 6, 2019, that Former Mrs. Taylor could not be prosecuted for torture and conspiracy because it could not be established that at the time and location of each offense alleged, the NPFL was exercising governmental function in the relevant area. The case was NEVER tried. Agnes Taylor was constrained to return home to Liberia after she was denied continuation of her immigration status in the UK. Following her return to Liberia, she called a Press Conference on July 27, 2020, and proudly referred to herself as “Mother” of the NPFL Revolution. She promptly and sternly called out Hassan Bility then. Agnes Reeves-Taylor also has an older sister, Laurice Reeves, a former Liberian Broadcast Journalist who is assisting her sister “fight back”. Smart News online, facebook and other social media outlets are her platform for getting their message out. Laurice is at the head of the media campaign aimed at discrediting Hassan Bility. The siblings who are known to be very close, are united in their goal to get back at Hassan Bility. In several social media postings, Laurice Reeves vows to have Hassan Bility pay for his “lies” against her sister. In one specific posting, Laurice Reeves angrily laments about her sister spending time in jail for two years. Ms. Laurice Reeves has also been defending former Satu Commander, Col. Moses Thomas and others accused and convicted of war crimes in Liberia. The situation is beginning to appear like perpetrators galore.
The audacity of witnesses to lie under oath while others engage in witness interference and tampering in these proceedings, speak for the callousness with which human lives are viewed by these individuals. An estimated 250,000 to 300,000 people lost their lives in the Liberian war yet there has been no accountability from the Country nor attempts to address the cries for justice coming from Liberians and members of the international community calling for the establishment of a war crimes court. This dismissiveness of the situation is reflective of the entrenched culture of impunity that is the Liberian society. Any other person would figure that tampering with the law, especially of this magnitude, has dire legal consequences. Justice advocates must be reinforced in their determination and fight to ensure that this boogie man called impunity is defeated no matter how long it takes. This struggle must be transgenerational and global. We owe our dead loved ones a peaceful repose.