Dutch Court of Appeal finds insufficient evidence to convict conflict timber trader


On 10 th March 2008, the Court of Appeal in The Hague cleared Guus Van Kouwenhoven, a " member of [Charles] Taylor's Inner Circle, " of breaking the United Nations arms embargo enforced against Liberia.

" The barbaric regime of Charles Taylor was financed and maintained by the revenues generated from the timber trade, in which Guus Van Kouwenhoven was the biggest player. This decision is a sad day for peace and justice in Liberia and for the ending of impunity, " said Alex Yearsley of the watchdog Global Witness.

The conviction was originally bestowed by the Court of First Instance in The Hague on 7 th June, 2006. Guus Van Kouwenhoven was convicted of illegally importing weapons into Liberia that were used during the civil war in Liberia by Charles Taylor's forces to commit horrific crimes. The Court of the First Instance held that the " supply of weapons to Liberia was unjustified " and sentenced him to 8 years of imprisonment.

>From 1999 to 2003, Guus Van Kouwenhoven operated the largest timber concession and dominated the Liberian timber industry as president of OTC, one the biggest timber concessionaires. The timber revenues contributed to the funding of the Liberian civil war, which resulted in sanctions being placed on timber from Liberia by the UN Security Council in 2003. The UN Panel of Experts for Liberia concluded that timber was being traded by rebel and government forces in exchange for arms and that its revenue was being used to fund the conflict. Subsequently, the Forest Concession Review set up in 2005 ruled that all of the timber concessions in Taylor's Liberia were operating illegally.

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