SALC seeks cancellation of visa of convicted Dutch war criminal and fugitive from justice, Guus Kouvenhowen

Salc : Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh

SALC has filed an application to cancel the visa of convicted Dutch war criminal and fugitive from justice, Guus Kouvenhowen.

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre has filed an application requesting the Western Cape High Court to cancel the visa of convicted arms trafficker and war criminal Guus Kouwenhoven. He has been resident in the country since December 2016. Kouwenhoven, is convicted of arms trafficking in Liberia during the presidency of Charles Taylor. SALC’s Director Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh has stated that, “As an individual who has been convicted of being complicit in war crimes as well as being a fugitive from justice, Kouvenhoven cannot remain free and at large in South Africa. He leads an extravagant care free life in an upmarket Cape Town suburb unrepentant for the thousands of deaths and atrocities he is responsible for. SALC filed this application to ensure that this war criminal and fugitive from justice cannot retain his immigration status to remain in South Africa and seeks to facilitate both the withdrawal of his visa and departure from the country. This is to ensure that he should commence serving the 19 year sentence handed down to him in the Netherlands.”

Ramjathan-Keogh added, “The South African authorities arrested him in December 2017 but he has successfully applied for release on bail. This arrest in South Africa is a hugely significant step in efforts to hold accountable those that fuelled and profited from Liberia’s bloody civil war. Even though the Netherlands has requested his extradition; the extradition proceedings have been repeatedly postponed and delayed at the behest of and to the benefit of Mr. Kouvenhouven”.

SALC is concerned that the Department of Home Affairs despite being aware of this case for more than two years have failed to take steps to cancel the visa. The Director General of Home Affairs must immediately cancel Kouvenhoven’s visa and declare him “undesirable in terms of section 30(1)(f) and section 30(1)(g) of the Immigration Act”. He does not qualify for either a port of entry visa, any other visa, admission into the Republic or a permanent residence permit.

The summary of his convictions are as follows:

  1. Aiding and abetting violations, by persons associated with the then President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, of the laws and practices of war, contrary to international common law and/or “the stipulations set out in ‘common’ article 3 of the Geneva Conventions dated 12 August 1949”, in Guéckédou, Guinea, in 2000 and 2001 and Voinjama and Kolahun, Liberia, in 2001 and 2002; and
  2. Contravening Dutch regulations giving effect to the United Nations arms embargos on Liberia by imposing an embargo on sales of weapons to Liberia, by supplying AK-47s, RPGs and GMGs to, amongst others, Charles Taylor, and his armed forces in the periods 21 July 2001 to 8 May 2002 and 26 September 2002 to 7 May 2003.

Due to the fact that Kouvenhoven was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 19 years for (among others charges) complicity in war crimes, this represented a conviction for crimes for which provisional detention is allowed under Dutch Law. Therefore, on 21 April 2017 the Court of Appeal in ‘s-Hertogenbosch ordered his imprisonment notwithstanding the fact that he had lodged an appeal. Kouvenhoven applied to terminate or suspend the order of provisional imprisonment and the request was heard in chambers on 13 June 2017. However, on 15 June 2017 the Court of Appeal rejected the request. He has not returned to the Netherlands in order to comply with the order of imprisonment and is therefore a fugitive from justice. The Dutch trial was unique in that it was the first time western prosecutors successfully secured a conviction of a national for breaking a UN embargo.

How the Kouvenhoven case relates to atrocities committed by Charles Taylor?

Charles Taylor served as the 22nd President of Liberia from 2 August 1997 until his resignation on 11 August 2003. He was convicted in Sierra Leone in 2012 on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and is now serving 50 years in a United Kingdom jail. Taylor was accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity as a result of his involvement in the Sierra Leone Civil War (1991–2002). Domestically, opposition to his government grew, culminating in the outbreak of the Second Liberian Civil War (1999–2003). By 2003, Taylor had lost control of much of the countryside and was formally indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. He resigned in 2003, as a result of growing international pressure, and went into exile in Nigeria. In 2006, the newly elected President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, formally requested his extradition. He was detained by UN authorities in Sierra Leone and then at the Penitentiary Institution Haaglanden in The Hague, awaiting trial by the Special Court. He was found guilty in April 2012 of all eleven charges levied by the Special Court, including terror, murder and rape. In May 2012, Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Reading the sentencing statement, Presiding Judge Richard Lussick said: “The accused has been found responsible for aiding and abetting as well as planning some of the most heinous and brutal crimes in recorded human history.” Kouvenhoven was a close associate and enabler of Taylor who aided and abetted violations committed by Taylor’s administration in the furtherance of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He must be held accountable for his role in these atrocities.