An amendment to the amnesty law prevented the trial of President Bouterse and 24 others accused of the extrajudicial killing of 15 political opponents in 1982.
In April, the National Assembly approved an amendment to the 1992 amnesty law. This extended the period covered by the law from April 1980 to August 1992, thereby covering the torture and extrajudicial execution of 15 opponents of the then military government in December 1982. Twenty-five people, including President Desiré Delano “Dési” Bouterse, the country’s military leader at the time, were put on trial before a military court in November 2007 for the killings.
The amended law grants an amnesty to those who “have committed criminal offences and/or are suspected of having done so within the framework of the defence of the State and/or overthrow of the lawful authorities such as the events occurring during December 1982 and the Guerrilla War” in order to “promote national unity and the further uninterrupted development of the Republic of Suriname”.
President Bouterse argued that the new amnesty law would help to reconcile the country. However, there were demonstrations in Paramaribo, the capital, in April and May against this initiative to grant immunity to President Bouterse and the other co-accused. International criticism of the law included statements by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that “laws that seek to leave serious human rights violations in impunity are incompatible with Inter-American human rights obligations”. In April, following the approval of the law, the Netherlands withdrew their ambassador.
On 11 May, the military court adjourned the trial until the Constitutional Court could review the new amnesty law. This decision was confirmed by the Office of the Public Prosecutor on 12 December. However, this could result in a lengthy delay as, although the 1987 Constitution provides for the creation of a constitutional court, no such court had been established by the end of 2012.
In November, youth activist Sharona Lieuw On, Chair of Youth against Amnesty, filed a complaint after receiving a bullet through the post along with a letter warning her not to continue her protests against the amnesty law. She later withdrew her complaint as she feared for her safety.Top of page