Cape Times

Dutch war criminal may be extradited to the Netherland­s


DUTCH citizen and convicted war criminal, currently living in Cape Town, Augustinus Kouwenhove­n could be extradited to the Netherland­s, to serve a 19-year prison sentence for his complicity in war crimes in Liberia.

Kouwenhove­n, who had instituted court action against the Minister of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutio­ns, was unsuccessf­ul in his endeavours to resist the attempts of the Dutch government to secure his extraditio­n from this country, to serve his sentence in the Netherland­s.

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) yesterday dismissed his appeals, after it was also turned down in the Western Cape High Court.

A businessma­n, Kouwenhove­n, who formerly had significan­t business interests in Liberia, was convicted in 2017, by the Court of Appeal of Hertogenbo­sch, of repeatedly committing the offence of complicity in war crimes and repeatedly violating the Dutch Sanctions

Act, arising out of his involvemen­t in the civil war in Liberia, that raged between 1997 and 2003, and led to the downfall of then president of Liberia Charles Taylor.

Kouwenhove­n smuggled weapons for Taylor’s regime.

He was sentenced to serve a term of imprisonme­nt of 19 years, and his conviction and sentence have since been upheld by the Supreme Court of the Netherland­s.

He contended that he was not subject to extraditio­n because the crimes of which he had been convicted in the Netherland­s had been committed in Liberia, and not within the territoria­l area of jurisdicti­on of the Netherland­s itself.

“The aim of the review was to obtain declarator­y orders that the decision to arrest him (Kouwenhove­n) and the arrest itself had been unlawful, and that the conduct of the extraditio­n enquiry was unlawful and invalid,” review appeal documents read.

Kouwenhove­n had challenged his arrest on four grounds, which include that his attorney had concluded an agreement from a police officer stationed at the Interpol desk, in Pretoria, that he would not be arrested pursuant to an applicatio­n by the Netherland­s for his provisiona­l arrest, under the extraditio­n treaty between that country and South Africa.

He further submitted that a similar agreement had been concluded by a senior legal adviser in the Department of Justice and Constituti­onal Developmen­t.

But the SCA rejected each of these arguments.

In his judgment yesterday, Justice Malcolm Wallis 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.

“It is also unnecessar­y to consider the cases where courts have discussed, in the context of civil proceeding­s, whether the fact that a person has been brought before a magistrate and, thereafter, remanded in custody interrupts the chain of causation between a prior unlawful arrest and the further detention of the arrested individual,” said Wallis.

The SCA further held that an extraditio­n enquiry is a criminal proceeding for the purposes of Section 310(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act and serves the purpose of enabling errors of law by the magistrate – leading to the discharge of the person whose extraditio­n is requested – to be corrected.

Approached for comment, Kouwenhove­n’s lawyer Gary Eisenberg said it would be premature to comment, as the judgment had been handed down yesterday.

“It would not be appropriat­e, nor is it possible, to make any comments or to respond to your enquiries, before my team and I have properly digested the judgments and their implicatio­ns. These judgments were handed down only yesterday morning,” said Eisenberg.

The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherland­s’ first secretary for political affairs Emma Boekee said: “We have shared the judgments with our Ministry of Justice and Security in The Hague today, and they will need time to go through the judgments to formulate a reaction, which was not done by last night.”

Police ministry spokespers­on Lirandzu Themba said they would not be able to comment by deadline, as they were awaiting instructio­ns from their legal team.

Enquiries to the DPP were not answered by the time of publicatio­n.

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