Dutch national Guus K. sentenced to 19 years imprisonment for war crimes and sanctions violations

On 21 April 2017, a Dutch court of appeals sentenced the Dutch national Guus K. to 19 years imprisonment for having committed war crimes and violations of the EU sanctions against Liberia. In the period between 2000 and 2003, Mr. K. sold and exported batches of weapons and munition to Charles Taylor and his regime in Liberia, thereby violating the EU weapon embargo against Liberia and acting as an accomplice in the armed conflict at the time. Although the verdict is to a large extent based on the war crimes committed by Mr. K., Mr. K. is also convicted of EU sanctions violations.

An interesting plea by the defence that the Dutch court was not competent to rule over the matter, since the facts were committed outside the Netherlands and were not punishable in Liberia (a condition that generally must be met in Dutch criminal law for a Dutch court to be competent to rule over facts committed abroad). The court of appeals, however, explicitly referred to article 13 of the Dutch Sanctions Act, stating that this provides a broader application of competence than the Dutch penal code. Article 13 was included in the Sanctions Act because facts committed under the Sanctions Act are generally not punishable abroad.

This judgment is the most evident Dutch case of sanctions violations in the last decades. Since 2017, however, there the Dutch public prosecutor’s office has taken new approach in sanctions violations. Criminal prosecution of sanctions violations has become the standard as of this year, not only for companies involved but also for management. Settlements are, in principle, no longer possible and a specific prosecutor has even been appointed for sanctions and export control. It is thus to be expected that more and more criminal cases will be brought to court in the near future. B&A Law has extended experience with such cases. Should you require advice on this subject, please do not hesitate to contact u at info@balaw.nl or at +31 20 260 0082.

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