Lawmakers in Suriname have passed a law under which the president has immunity for alleged violations committed under his earlier military rule. The parliament, which is dominated by MPs allied to President Desi Bouterse’s ruling coalition, backed the bill 28-12 after three days of debate.
Mr Bouterse, who was elected in 2010, is among those on trial for the murder of 15 political opponents in 1982. Rights groups had denounced the bill and urged MPs not to back it.
Mr Bouterse, who has been been a powerful force in the former Dutch colony in recent decades, headed two coups, in 1980 and 1990. He stepped down as military chief in 1992. In 1999, Mr Bouterse was convicted in absentia of drug trafficking by a court in the Netherlands, but cannot be extradited under Surinamese law.
Witness States That Current President Of Suriname Desi Bouterse Personally Killed At Least 2 People Back In 1982
Since the return of democratic government, Bouterse has been accused on various occasions of involvement in illegal drug trafficking. In July 1999, he was convicted in absentia in the Netherlands to nine years in prison for cocaine trafficking. Since 1999 there is an international warrant for his arrest ordered by Europol. According to the United Nations Convention against illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, since he was convicted before his election as Head of State since 2010 he has no immunity. This was confirmed by various specialists in International law. Wikileaks published in 2011 a cable in which the American embassy confirmed Bouterse’s involvement, together with that of Shaheed Roger Khan from Guyana, in the drugs trade. Representatives of the parliament say that President Bouterse should give an explanation for the Wikileaks cable, but officials from the government discard this as not being their problem.
Although he was convicted in the Netherlands, he has remained free in Suriname. The Surinamese government has said that it is preparing a case against the perpetrators of the December murders to be brought before a judge. The cases were ongoing as of April 2006. Bouterse has denied any involvement in the killings on 8 December 1982 at Fort Zeelandia, in which 15 prominent opponents of the military regime were shot dead. He denied being present and that the decision was made by the commander of the battalion, Paul Bhagwandas, who died in 1996. He did, however, accept political responsibility.
Moiwana massacre of 1986
Moiwana is a Maroon village in the Marowijne district in the east of Suriname. During the Suriname Guerrilla War between the Surinamese military regime, headed by Dési Bouterse and the Jungle Commando led by Ronnie Brunswijk, Moiwana was the scene of the Moiwana massacre on November 29, 1986. The army attacked the village, killing at least 35 of the inhabitants, mostly women and children, and burning the house of Ronnie Brunswijk. The survivors fled with thousands of other inland inhabitants over the Marowijne river to neighbouring French Guiana.
The human rights organisation Moiwana ’86 has committed itself to justice with regard to this event. A chief inspector of the police, Herman Gooding, was murdered in August 1990 while carrying out an investigation of the massacre. Reportedly he was forced out of his car near Fort Zeelandia and shot in the head, with his body left outside the office of Desi Bouterse. Other police investigators fled the country, stalling the investigation.
The government has stated that it is still continuing its investigation of the massacre, but that prospective witnesses had either moved, died or were uncooperative. It has also said that an investigation of the murder of Herman Gooding was continuing. In August 2005, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Suriname to pay 3 million USD in compensation to 130 survivors of the massacre, and to establish a 1.2 million USD fund for the development of Moiwana.