Sierra Leone Rebel Official Arrested in Finland Over War Crimes in Liberia

Charles Taylor giving testimony to the Special Court for Sierra Leone

Gibril Massaquoi, spokesman of the defunct RUF of Sierra Leone

A former rebel of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone Gibril Massaquoi, has been arrested in Tampere, Finland over an allegation that he committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Liberia between 1999 and 2003.

Massaquoi's crimes, according to Civitas Maxima and its Liberian sister organization, the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) include homicide, sexual violence, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

The former Sierra Leonean warlord who during the civil war in his country was a Lieutenant-Colonel and spokesman of the RUF rebel group was arrested by Finnish police after Civitas Maxima and the GJRP informed them about the warlord's alleged involvement in mass atrocities in Liberia.

In 2005, Massaquoi testified in open session before the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in the case against members of Sierra Leone's former Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC)- a rebel group that allied itself with the RUF rebels in the late 1990s.

"As part of their regular investigation and documentation efforts, Civitas Maxima and its Liberian sister organization--GJRP found evidence that Massaquoi had allegedly committed, overseen, and ordered international crimes in Liberia during the Second Civil War. Thereafter, Civitas Maxima and the GJRP submitted information regarding his alleged involvement in mass atrocities in Liberia to the authorities in Finland, where he resides," Civitas Maxima said in a press release said.

Meanwhile, Civitas Maxima has applauded the Liberian government for its support towards the process "as they collaborated with the Finnish authorities during the investigation and the Finnish authorities on their diligence and commitment to this investigation."

In brief remarks, Fayah Williams, Deputy Director of the GJRP said: "The latest news regarding the arrest of Gibril Massaquoi in Finland is a huge step towards addressing the issue of accountability for past crimes committed during the two bloody civil wars in Liberia. It brings hope to all those who were victimized as a result of the civil wars. This arrest also indicates that justice does not discriminate based on nationality."

The arrest of Massaquoi comes at a time when several Liberians both at home and abroad have been pushing for the establishing of war crimes court in Liberia.

And it is the 7th arrest of an alleged war criminal by authorities in 6 different countries on two continents that was prompted by information collected by Civitas Maxima and the GJRP - whose work has also contributed to two convictions of Liberian war criminals in the U.S. Nobody however been tried for war-related crimes on Liberian soil.

The historic trial of Alieu Kosiah, a former commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) rebel group, is scheduled to commence on April 14 and conclude on April 30 2020 in Bellinzona, Switzerland.

According to Civitas Maxima, two of their lawyers will directly represent 4 plaintiffs in the case, which will be the first trial for war crimes in front of the Swiss Federal Criminal Court.

Liberia saw two consecutive civil wars (1989-1996 and 1999-2003), the first of which was initiated when Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) invaded the country in December 1989.

In March 1991, the fighting spilled over into neighboring Sierra Leone when the RUF, with support from the NPFL, invaded Sierra Leone in an attempt to overthrow the government. The civil war in Sierra Leone ended in 2002.

During the Liberian and Sierra Leonean civil wars, hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed. These conflicts were characterized by mass atrocities against the civilian population, including rampant sexual violence, mass killings, amputations and mutilations, slavery, torture, cannibalism, and the widespread use of child soldiers.

Despite some fallout between the two groups, the NPFL and RUF stayed closely connected throughout the Sierra Leonean Civil War - exchanging arms and ammunition for diamonds - especially once Charles Taylor was elected President of Liberia in 1997.

There was also a continuous exchange of fighters and leaders between the two rebel groups. Charles Taylor was convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in 2012 for aiding, abetting, and planning the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone by the RUF.

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