Civilian 72 as coded by the Finnish Appeals Court, started her testimony to the court in a very emotionally shaky voice.
Her eyes were visibly red. She claimed she witnessed the opening of a pregnant woman’s belly by Gibril Massaquoi, a former commander of Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) after an argument ensued between him and his men over the sex of the unborn child.
“The chief name was Angel Gabriel,” said Mr Massaquoi, who other witnesses have identified as such. “He said, I myself, Angel Gabriel, will open the woman’s stomach and took out the child. It was a girl child. They call started celebrating over the woman’s child. He started saying, I, Angel Gabriel, said it was a girl child, I won, I won.”
She said the soldiers used human intestines as checkpoints – tying them together to form a rope. The witness claimed that they also used human heads as flags. “When you get to the checkpoint, you’re forced to salute that human head.”
Civilian 72 recalled the horrible scenes at Waterside, noting that there were bodies all over the place – some without heads, or arms, and some were “split open like meat.” “They treated human beings like dogs.”
She said she and others captured and taken beneath the bridge were kept there until that evening. They were later placed in a pickup and taken to ELWA. The males were separated from the females. They were told by those they met there that the place was not safe. She said they were informed that the soldiers took one person out every night, and that person never returned. They began to cry and make loud noises. She explained that they escaped with the help of one of the soldiers, who opened the back gate and asked them to leave.
After her testimony, she told the court: “Before I leave, my heart is really burning. I want to see that man in a place where he’ll never do such wickedness again.”
Tuesday’s first witness was Soldier 13. He claimed he lost a leg in an exchange of fire with Mr Massquoi’s fighters over the killing of one of Benjamin Yeaten’s bodyguards. Mr Yeaten headed the elite presidential guard, Special Security Service, now Executive Protection Service. This incident, according to him, occurred on the Waterside Bridge.
“I got crippled by one of Angel Gabriel’s bodyguards called ‘bodyman’.”
He explained that Bodyman and others loyal to Massaquoi killed some civilians around Water Street, which brought some misunderstanding among the fighters, and they started firing.
Roland Duo sent Gray D and others to come and put things under control. When we came “50” was already there on the scene. After it was settled, they ordered us to head towards the bridge. Angel Gabriel passed an order that anyone who retreats, they should open fire on the person.
“When the enemies were coming, his other bodyguards crossed. Bodyman opened fire on the bridge when I was crossing to the bridge. He used AK Dragon, 9 rounds on this my foot, and it cut. He wanted to kill me, but luckily, my other friends who were coming said “no, y’all can’t kill this man here.”
“They took me and carried me across to the hospital.”
He told the court that Mr Massaquoi carried out many atrocities in Waterside, which was his control area.
“I came here today because Massaquoi did a lot of wickedness to our people. He carried out a lot of nasty killings. I want to see justice; that’s why I came here.”
He said Massquoi and others entered Liberia in 2001 when the RUF fighters were driven from Sierra Leone.
According to him, several RUF fighters, including ‘Cow Pupu’, Angel Gabriel, Agba alia “One Way to Death” crossed into Liberia through Lofa County.
Soldier 13 told the court that though he witnessed several massacres in Lofa County, he could not remember seeing Mr Massaquoi involved.
He highlighted the massacre in Susumolahun, where people were placed in a building and set ablaze. He, however, told the court that Joseph “Zizar Marzah” carried out that.
During cross-examination, Soldier 13 admitted to being told by the contact person of the Finnish Police in Liberia he could benefit from a new prosthetic leg if he explained what he knew about the Waterside incident to the Finnish Police.
The appeal hearings continue on Thursday.
This story was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.