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Kouwenhoven’s conviction must be upheld – Global Witness

21st December 2010

“Today’s re-opening of the trial of Dutch timber trader Guus Kouwenhoven for war crimes and violating the UN arms embargo on Liberia in The Netherlands is a second chance for justice” said Patrick Alley of Global Witness. “It is vital to send a message to those who break the law when trading in conflict areas: they do not have impunity.”

Kouwenhoven was sentenced to eight years imprisonment for illegal arms trading in 2007. The landmark decision was one of the few instances of an individual being held to account in their own country for crimes allegedly committed in another. Global Witness first documented the involvement of Kouwenhoven in state-sanctioned illegal logging and arms trafficking in its 2001 report, Taylor Made, and later testified before the court and submitted extensive evidence supporting the prosecution’s case.

Kouwenhoven was head of the Oriental Timber Corporation (OTC) during the regime of President Charles Taylor, who waged a brutal war against the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone, funded largely through the sale of diamonds and illegal logging. OTC, also known as ‘Old Taylor's Children' or ‘Only Taylor Chops', was the most notorious logging company in the country and dominated the Liberian timber industry with 1.6 million hectares of concessions.

Kouwenhoven’s sentence was overturned in 2008 by the Appeals Court. However, this appeal was quashed in April 2010 by the Supreme Court, which sent the case back to the Appeals Court – where the hearing starts today.

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Contact: Patrick Alley +44 (0)20 7492 5880 or Blanka Geszti +44 (0)7912 517 126, bgeszti@globalwitness.org  

Notes to editors:

  • Liberia experienced two brutal civil wars between 1989 and 2003.
  • Kouwenhoven has been on trial since 2006 for charges of war crimes and violating the UN arms embargo on Liberia.
  • A 2000 UN Expert Panel Report on Sierra Leone referred to Kouwenhoven as a "...member of President [Charles] Taylor's inner circle" and "responsible for the logistical aspects of many of the arms deals [with the RUF]." In 2001 the UN Expert Panel Report on Liberia referred to him as "...one of the most influential businessmen in Liberia.” 
  • For information regarding Kouwenhoven’s activities in Liberia see here