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Suriname: unacceptable delays and uncertainty in trial of former President Bouterse and others
The ICJ today expressed its concern at further delays in the trial of President Desiré Delano Bouterse and 24 others, who are accused of the murder of thirteen civilians and two military personnel in 1982.
The ICJ further expressed its dissatisfaction with the continued uncertainty on the applicability of an Amnesty Law that could threaten the status of the trial.
No public statement has been made by the Suriname Military Court since the judges hearing the matter decided to suspend the trial of President Bouterse in May 2012 and leave it to the public prosecutor and an undesignated court to decide whether President Bouterse and the other accused should benefit from the country’s Amnesty Law.
“It is unacceptable that there have been no pronouncements in this case since the last hearing over eight months ago,” said ICJ Secretary-General Wilder Tayler. “Justice has been denied for more than three decades and it is in everyone’s interests, both the accused and the families of the victims, that this trial should proceed without further delay”.
President Bouterse had been accused of having been present on 8 December 1982 at the military barracks of Fort Zeelandia, where 15 political opponents were allegedly executed.
Reports published by various organizations at the time, including by an ICJ affiliate, indicated that several of the victims had also been subjected to torture. At the time, Bouterse was leading a military government in Suriname.
On 19 July 2010, Desiré Delano Bouterse was elected President of Suriname, taking up office on 12 August 2010. On 4 April 2012, despite some contestation, an amendment to the existing Amnesty Law of 1989 was adopted by the country’s Parliament, purportedly granting amnesty to President Bouterse and others for the murders that allegedly took place in 1982.
As the ICJ noted in its report of 29 May 2012, there are a number of unresolved questions regarding the legality of the Amnesty law.