Dutch urge Suriname not to grant president amnesty

Published April 3, 2012 3:18PM (EDT)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Netherlands is pressing former colony Suriname not to grant President Desi Bouterse and others immunity from prosecution for crimes committed under his military dictatorship in the 1980s.

Lawmakers in Suriname were set to debate a proposed amnesty law Tuesday that would shield Bouterse and 24 associates from prosecution for alleged crimes — including abducting and killing political opponents — carried out in the 1980s.

Bouterse seized power in a 1980 coup. Under international pressure, he allowed the return of civilian rule in 1987 only to launch a second coup in 1990. He stepped down as military chief in 1992, but has remained a powerful force in the nation of 500,000 with lawmakers electing him president in 2010.

Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said in a statement Tuesday that Suriname is obliged by international treaties to "investigate human rights violations and prosecute the perpetrators."

Amnesty International also recently urged Suriname's parliament to reject the bill that would absolve Bouterse for the so-called December killings. The group said the legal proceedings against the president and his associates, which began in November 2007 and have been repeatedly delayed, should be allowed to run their course.

Rosenthal said Surinamese victims "have the right to see the trial proceed. If a court finds the suspects guilty, they should not be allowed to avoid their punishment."

Rosenthal said he would express his concerns to Surinamese diplomats in The Hague.

Bouterse was convicted in absentia of drug trafficking in the Netherlands in 1999, but avoided the 11-year sentence because Suriname does not have an extradition treaty with its former colonial ruler.

By Salon Staff

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