Gibril Massaquoi is a Sierra Leonean national. He held a leading position within the RUF – a Sierra Leonean rebel group which had close ties to former Liberian President Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). He was also the spokesperson and assistant to the group’s founder, Foday Sankoh.
The RUF invaded Sierra Leone in March 1999, with support from the NPFL, in an attempt to overthrow the Joseph Momoh government. The NPFL and RUF stayed closely connected throughout the Sierra Leonean civil war.
In 2002, the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) was established. Massaquoi offered to collaborate, and became a top informer for the prosecution, testifying against his former colleagues. In 2009 and 2012 respectively, the SCSL convicted three former senior leaders of the RUF and Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sierra Leone. Massaquoi was not charged with any crimes by the SCSL.
As part of their regular investigation and documentation efforts, Geneva-based NGO Civitas Maxima and its Liberian sister organization, the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), found evidence that Massaquoi had allegedly committed, overseen and ordered international crimes in Liberia.
On the basis of indications that he was present in Finland, Civitas Maxima and the GJRP submitted information to the authorities in Finland in 2018 regarding Massaquoi’s alleged involvement in mass atrocities in Liberia. Following a preliminary investigation, Finland’s General Prosecutor issued an order to proceed with the case.
Finnish police investigators visited Liberia on several occasions since early 2019 to hear witnesses in cooperation with Liberian authorities.
On 10 March 2020, Gibril Massaquoi was arrested by Finnish police in Tampere, Finland on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murders, sexual violence and the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
On 13 January 2021, Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation closed the pre-trial investigation on Gibril Massaquoi and the case was officially handed over to the prosecutor, who issued the indictment on 25 January 2021.
The Massaquoi trial started in Tampere, Finland, on 1 February 2021. The Finnish court then travelled to Liberia in mid-February – first conducting site visits in Lofa County before returning to Monrovia and commencing hearings there on 23 February 2021. The hearings in Monrovia concluded on 7 April 2021 and resumed in Sierra Leone from 11 May until 18 May. The court returned to Finland, where eight further hearings were held between 31 May and 25 August. Following the presentation of documentary and expert evidence, as well as of new witnesses, the Finnish court travelled back to Monrovia to hear additional witnesses. The hearings resumed in Monrovia on 13 September and concluded on 8 October. The court returned to Finland where it heard additional witnesses on 26 October, 17 and 19 November, 8 and 20 December 2021. The final pleadings took place in January 2022. The verdict is expected to be issued in April 2022.