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 Augustinus Maria Kouwenhoven. Kouwenhoven has been resident in South Africa since December 2016. He was convicted of arms trafficking to Liberia during the presidency of Charles Taylor. SALC filed this application to ensure that the war criminal and fugitive from justice cannot retain his immigration status to remain in South Africa. SALC’s application 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. The summary of his convictions are as follows:
- 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
- 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. 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.
Kouwenhoven 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 the country’s prosecutors successfully secured a conviction of a national for breaking a UN embargo. 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 case seeks to compel the Director General of Home Affairs to 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”. SALC’s argument is that Kouwenhoven does not qualify for either a port of entry visa, any other visa, admission into the Republic or a permanent residence permit.