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.