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. His trial opened on 1 February 2021.