Dutch court jails Charles Taylor arms-supplier for 19 years
A Dutch court on Friday sentenced a businessman to 19 years in prison for arms trafficking and aiding war crimes in Liberia and Guinea by armed forces of ex-Liberian leader Charles Taylor.
Guus Kouwenhoven, 74, was found guilty of delivering weapons to Taylor's regime between 2000 and 2003 in return for preferential treatment and lucrative contracts for his logging business, in violation of a UN arms embargo.
"It has been proven that he is an accessory to war crimes, committed by the armed forces of Charles Taylor in Liberia and the Republic of Guinea," the court said.
The judges said in their verdict the arms were funnelled to Taylor's forces locked in "an armed conflict in northern Liberia and just across the border in Gueckedou, Guinea."
Kouwenhoven's "business interests were entangled with the political, financial and private interests of Charles Taylor. He used his logging companies to import, store and distribute shipments of weapons in Liberia," the court said.
Taylor, a former warlord, sparked a 13-year civil war in his country when he led a rebellion in 1989 to oust President Samuel Doe, which deteriorated into one of Africa's bloodiest conflicts.
He was elected Liberia's president from 1999 to 2003, when he also supported Revolutionary United Front rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone.
Kouwenhoven supplied the rebels with guns and ammunition, and "during several years defenceless civilians became victims," the court said.
The Sierra Leone civil war claimed 120,000 lives between 1991 and 2002.
The Dutch media gave Kouwenhoven's full name, as under Dutch privacy laws the court can refer to him only as Guus K.
"Businessmen like K., who enter into commercial activities with regimes like the one of Charles Taylor, must be made aware that by doing so they can get involved in serious war crimes," the appeals court in the southern Dutch town of Den Bosch said.
Kouwenhoven "has always denied the facts and has not provided any clarity about his motives. He does not seem to have acted for political or ideological reasons, but for profit," it added.
- 'Serious war crimes' -
The owner of two of the biggest lumber companies in Liberia, Kouwenhoven was close to Taylor and in his initial case was sentenced to eight years in prison in June 2006, but was freed on appeal in March 2008.
In April 2010, the Dutch Supreme Court overturned his acquittal, ruling that the appeal judges had not given sufficient reason for not hearing the testimony of two new anonymous prosecution witnesses.
Despite his advanced years and fragile health, the Den Bosch court said Friday that doctors believed "he is able to undergo detention".
"These are serious war crimes which have strongly shocked legal order. Therefore -- in accordance with the demand of the prosecution - the court orders the imprisonment" of Kouwenhoven.
After fleeing to Nigeria in 2003, Taylor was arrested in 2006 and sentenced by an international UN-backed court in The Hague to 50 years in prison in May 2012.
Two ruinous back-to-back civil wars in Liberia pulverised the west African state between 1989 and 2003, killing 250,000 people.
© 2017 AFP