The trial of 25 people accused of carrying out extrajudicial executions in 1982 resumed following unnecessary delays. The lack of protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights remained a concern.
Impunity – trial developments
In January, the military trial of 25 people accused of extrajudicial executions in 1982 resumed after a six-month adjournment. The trial had begun in November 2007 following 25 years of impunity. Among the defendants was former President Lieutenant Colonel Désiré (Dési) Delano Bouterse, who took power in a military coup in 1980 and was replaced in 1987. Dési Bouterse and 24 other men were charged with the killing of 13 civilians and two army officers who were arrested by the military authorities and executed the next day in Fort Zeelandia, a military base in Paramaribo, in December 1982.
The presiding judge rejected a motion filed in 2008 by the defence to ban the media from covering the trial. Witnesses, including former soldiers, testified before the military court stating that Dési Bouterse was at Fort Zeelandia on the morning of the first killings. In August, a civilian witness, brother of one of the victims, told the court that during an interview, a former high-ranking officer, who later died, had implicated Dési Bouterse in the killing of two of the victims. Dési Bouterse denied any involvement in the killings. The trial was continuing at the end of the year.
Indigenous Peoples’ rights
In February, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considered Suriname’s report. In its concluding observations in March, the Committee urged Suriname to ensure legal acknowledgement of the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples. These encompass the rights to own, develop, control and use their lands, resources and communal territories according to customary laws and the traditional land-tenure system, and to participate in the exploitation, management and conservation of the associated natural resources. The Committee invited Suriname to update and approve the draft Mining Act, in line with its previous recommendations to ensure that Indigenous and Tribal Peoples are fully consulted and their informed consent is obtained regarding matters affecting their interests. The Committee also invited the state party to identify practical methods to strengthen judicial procedures in order to give Indigenous Peoples effective protection and remedies against acts of discrimination.