A court in Finland has acquitted Gibril Massaquoi, a former rebel leader from Sierra Leone accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Liberia civil war between 1999 to 2003.
The decision which was announced in an 850-page ruling by judges of the District Court in the city of Tampere on Friday, April 29, 2022, says prosecutors failed to provide evidence beyond reasonable doubt that Massaquoi, committed the crimes of rape, ritual murder, torture and recruitment of child soldiers during the war in Liberia.
Massaquoi, 52, was a senior member of the notorious Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group. In 2008, he moved to Finland and was arrested two years ago. He was a school teacher when the Sierra Leone civil war began in 1991.
The former rebel commander has also given evidence to the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone set up to investigate war crimes committed in that conflict. He was relocated to Finland as part of a witness protection program, which provided immunity for crimes committed in Sierra Leone, but not Liberia.
However, during his trial, prosecutors alleged that in Liberia, Massaquoi had ordered buildings with people locked inside to be torched, and described the widespread rape and murder of civilians, often by enslaved child soldiers. The ex-rebel commander said he was not in Liberia at the time.