Dutch weapon dealer gets 19 years in prison for war crimes in Liberia
Dutch arms dealer Guus Kouwenhoven was sentenced to 19 years in prison by the court in Den Bosch on Friday. He was found guilty of complicity in war crimes in Liberia and of illegal arms trafficking. The Public Prosecutor demanded 20 years, AD reports.
The court considered it proven that Kouwenhoven supported the regime of former Liberian President Charles Taylor by illegally delivering weapons to it in a civil war between 2001 and 2003. There was an arms embargo in place for Liberia at the time.
In 2006 Kouwenhoven was convicted of arms smuggling and sentenced to eight years in prison. Two years later he was completely acquitted due to a lack of evidence, mostly due to witness testimonies varying widely or even contradicting each other. The Public Prosecutor turned to the Supreme Court, who ruled that the case had to be re-done.
This time around the Public Prosecutor continued to argue that the discrepancies in testimonies can be explained by witnesses being threatened, influenced, bribed, drugged or traumatized. The witnesses saw weapons being delivered in Buchanan's harbor, despite the arms embargo. According to the prosecutors, the machine guns and ammunition were then transported to the front wth the support of Kouwenhoven's companies. The prosecutors consider this complicity to war crimes, and the judge agreed.
Kouwenhoven always denied the accusations against him. The now 74-year-old man was not present at the trial due to medical reasons. The Prosecutor did not see his advanced age or poor health as a reason to demand a lower punishment.
Charles Taylor was previously convicted for his role in a civil war in neighboring country Sierra Leone. A massive 50 thousand people were killed and many others were tortured and mutilated in the 11 year long conflict.