Guus Kouwenhoven
Guus Kouwenhoven

Convicted Dutch war criminal loses appeals, now faces extradition

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Sep 28, 2021

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Cape Town - Following the failure of his two applications to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), convicted Dutch arms dealer Guus Kouwenhoven can now be extradited to the Netherlands, to serve his sentence for complicity in war crimes, in the 1997 to 2003 Liberian civil war.

Kouwenhoven, who was convicted in absentia by a Dutch court, in April 2017, for offences which arose from his involvement in the civil war, that led to the downfall of the then president of Liberia Charles Taylor, has been fighting extradition since his arrest in South Africa, in December 2017.

The Dutch court sentenced Kouwenhoven to serve 19 years imprisonment, and his conviction and sentence have since been upheld by the Supreme Court of the Netherlands.

Kouwenhoven has been living in Cape Town since December 2016 and was arrested after a warrant was issued by a Pretoria magistrate, however, he challenged the validity of the warrant and questioned why he was brought before a magistrate in Cape Town, to face an extradition enquiry.

In September 2019, Kouwenhoven lost a case in the Western Cape Division of the High Court, where he had sued the Police Minister, the provincial Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Justice and Correctional Services Minister – wanting them to set aside the December 2017 warrant for his arrest, in terms of the Extradition Act of 1962. Also enjoined in the suit were the Pretoria magistrate and the Cape Town magistrate.

In his now dismissed applications, Kouwenhoven argued against his arrest, on the grounds that his attorney had obtained an undertaking, from a police officer stationed at the Interpol desk in Pretoria, that he would not be arrested in relation to the application by the Netherlands for his provisional arrest, under the extradition treaty between that country and South Africa.

He also said a similar undertaking had been given by a senior legal adviser in the Justice and Constitutional Development Department.

However, the SCA ruled that no such agreements were concluded and neither were any undertakings given. The SCA also expressed strong reservations at the proposition that either of the officials Kouwenhoven mentioned in his challenge was empowered to conclude such an agreement or furnish such an undertaking.

In its judgment, the SCA said: “None of the arguments advanced, in support of the contention that the arrest of Kouwenhoven was invalid, had any merit. It is, accordingly, unnecessary to address the contention.

“Accordingly, Mr Kouwenhoven could be extradited to the Netherlands to serve his sentence,” read the judgment.

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