LANDMARK hearings into alleged war crimes committed in Liberia began in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown on Tuesday, an AFP journalist said.
In an unprecedented case, a Finnish court has gone to West Africa to hear testimony into atrocities into one of the most brutal wars in the continent’s recent history.
The court gathered testimony in Liberia between February and April as part of a case against Gibril Massaquoi (pictured), an ex-rebel commander accused of committing war crimes there with a Sierra Leonean group.
Around a quarter of a million people were killed between 1989 and 2003 in Liberia, in a conflict marked by brutal violence and rape.
Massaquoi is a former senior member of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) – a Sierra Leone rebel group that also fought in Liberia and amputated the limbs of thousands of people.
The 51-year-old has lived in Finland since 2008.
He was arrested there in March last year after a rights group investigated his war record.
Finnish court documents seen by AFP detail a litany of accusations of abuse committed or ordered by Massaquoi in Liberia, including murder, rape, torture, enslavement and use of child soldiers.
The Finnish court’s unusual step to travel to the country to interview witnesses marked the first time war crimes hearings have been heard on Liberian soil.
The court is also holding hearings in neighbouring Sierra Leone, however, it is only examining charges that Massaquoi committed abuses in Liberia.
The former rebel received legal immunity for his role in Sierra Leone’s separate civil war in exchange for evidence provided to the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in 2003.
Hearings in Freetown are due to continue until May 19, accrording to Kerttu Henriksson, a spokeswoman for Finland’s national bureau of investigation