Skip to content

Finally, the Trial Liberians Have Been Waiting For

Tales of atrocities dominate accounts of Liberia’s years of civil war but not a single person has been tried for war crimes in the country’s courts. This is despite the estimated 250,000 dead – amounting to around 8% of the population at the time – and survivors willing to testify about the conflicts from 1989 to 1997 and 1999 to 2003. On Tuesday, in an unprecedented move, a war crimes case is due to be heard in the capital, Monrovia. But this will be a Finnish court holding a special session, not part of the Liberian judicial process. Gibril Massaquoi was a resident of Finland when he was arrested in 2020 and is accused of killing civilians, rape and recruiting child soldiers. He denies the charges. The case, while welcomed by campaigners, raises the question of why the Liberian courts have not taken any action. Rather than waiting, some activists, including the Switzerland-based group Civitas Maxima that works with Liberians and provides information to the authorities, have tried to find alternative routes to justice in foreign courts, hence the Finnish trial of Mr Massaquoi.