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Netherlands court sentences businessman for weapons smuggling in Liberia

[JURIST] Dutch timber trader Guus Kouwenhoven was sentenced [ruling, in Dutch] to 19 years in prison by an appellate court in Den Bosch [official website] on Friday after he was found guilty of smuggling weapons into Liberia during that country's civil war. Kouwenhoven, who has denied wrongdoing, was convicted [JURIST report] of violating an embargo related to the arms-dealing in 2006. That conviction was overturned in 2008. Kouwenhoven ran two timber companies at the time, which he used to smuggle weapons to then-President of Liberia Charles Taylor, as well as various rebel groups, according to the court.

Liberia continues to be in the headlines for alleged and proven war crimes spanning a number of decades. Last April a 49-year old Liberian national and resident of East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, Mohammed Jabbateh, was indicted [JURIST report] on two counts of immigration fraud and two counts of perjury for failing to disclose his crimes in Liberia when he applied for political asylum. As recently as September 2013, the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) rejected an appeal by former Liberian president Charles Taylor [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] of his convictions for war crimes committed during the decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone. In February 2010 the UN emphasized [JURIST report] that reconciliation in Liberia hinges on the development of its national security and its legal institutions. A UN report issued in April 2008 examined [JURIST report] Liberia's struggles with corruption in its criminal justice system, poor detention conditions, and sexual and gender-based violence, including rape and forced marriage.

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