Guus Kouwenhoven

Cape Town - A Dutch war criminal living in Constantia will spend Christmas in Pollsmoor Prison if a Cape Town Magistrate’s Court finds him liable for extradition to the Netherlands, where he faces a 19-year jail sentence.

According to senior prosecutor Christopher Burke this is likely because it appears Guus Kouwenhoven, 77, is liable - no matter what his legal team bring to court.

Kouwenhoven ticks all three boxes determining liability argued Burke, handing up a High Court judgment this week that ruled in his favour in another one of his extradition matters that covered similar legal ground.

Kouwenhoven was convicted and sentenced “finally and irrevocably” in a Netherlands Court of Appeal for offences including “complicity in co-committing violations of the laws and customs of war” resulting in multiple deaths and rape.

“These offences involve, amongst other things murder, (including decapitating civilians, throwing babies against walls and in wells), rape, torture and looting/plundering as set out in article 3 of the Geneva Conventions dated 12 August 1949”.

His offences also include gun-running for ex-Liberian president and warlord Charles Taylor between July 21, 2001 and May 8, 2002. According to the Dutch court, Kouwenhoven ran two timber companies in Liberia which he used as cover to smuggle arms.

At the time, Liberia was in the grip of a civil war between Taylor’s government and several rebel factions. Liberia’s string of conflicts since the 1990s left an estimated 250000 people dead. Thousands more were mutilated and raped.

Taylor stepped down in 2003. He was arrested in 2006 and in 2012 sentenced to 50 years in prison for aiding and abetting war crimes in Sierra Leone by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Kouwenhoven was also liable for extradition, argued Burke, because his war crime offences are included in an extradition agreement and were committed within the legal jurisdiction of the Netherlands.

Burke highlighted that in South Africa war crimes are punishable in terms of the Geneva Conventions and jurisdiction was not limited to South African nationals, space or time.

“South Africa has jurisdiction over war criminals of any nationality, regardless of the nationality of the victims and no matter where in the world or when the crimes were committed.”

In conclusion, Burke wants the court to “issue an order committing Kouwenhoven to prison to await the decision of the minister of justice and constitutional development with regard to his surrender to the Netherlands and inform Kouwenhoven that he may within 15 days appeal against such order to the High Court”.

Judging by his lengthy opening address, Kouwenhoven’s advocate Anton Katz SC will make a strong case in his counter-argument on Monday. If Friday’s address was anything to go by, every procedure followed by the State and every document filed will be scrutinised right down to the last semicolon in a bid to keep Kouwenhoven living in the luxury that he is accustomed to.

Weekend Argus