PARAMARIBO, Suriname, April 16, CMC – The London-based human rights group, Amnesty International, has sent an open letter to judiciary reminding it of its obligation to uphold human rights law in the trial of President Desi Bouterse and others implicated in the 1982 death of 15 political opponents.
The letter follows the recent approval by the Suriname National Assembly to approve legislation providing
An amnesty to those accused of human rights violations committed during Bouterse’s two previous stints in power, between 1980 and 1991.
The law proposed by Bouterse’s coalition government provides impunity for offences committed “in the context of defence of the state” during the period of Bouterse’s former rule.
In an immediate reaction, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte denounced the passage of the law as “totally unacceptable” and recalled the country’s ambassador. Holland has also said it would suspend aid to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.
In the open letter to the Suriname’s judiciary, Amnesty International said human rights must also be upheld in any other trials that might seek justice in cases of human rights violations committed during the period covered by the amnesty law.
“No historic moment is more critical for a judiciary than when it faces the responsibility of bringing to justice former or current heads of State. It is in these moments that the principle of separation of powers, which are generally enshrined in Constitutions, and of independence is subject to maximum pressure. “There is no country in the world where such a critical moment has been resolved with ease,” Amnesty International said, adding “the problems faced by former prime minister Berlusconi in Italy are well known, as are those faced in the past by former president Augusto Pinochet in Chile and in the United Kingdom, and President Nixon who was forced to resign but who was never put on trial.
“In some countries, this critical moment has not even arrived due to the complete submission of the Judiciary to the Executive, as in the case of Sudan, whose president is the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court,” the international human rights group said.
Amnesty International said that the justice system in Suriname is currently living through “one of these critical moments in which its independence is being subjected to pressure by the current President’s barely disguised attempt to escape justice for his alleged participation in the murder in December 1982 of 15 opponents of the military regime which he himself then headed.
“But it is not just the independence of the Surinamese judiciary which is at stake as it interprets the recently approved Amnesty Law, but also its role as guarantor of the interpretation and correct application of the international treaties to which Suriname is party.”
It said that the Executive, with the aid of the legislature, can try to block and momentarily stop the inexorable advance of justice against impunity in the Americas through amnesty laws.
“It is therefore up to the judiciary to exercise its historical responsibility to preserve the rule of law in which all persons are equal before the law, no one can place themselves above the law, and no one can create legislation in order to remain above the law.
“If the judiciary, the last bastion of the rule of law, endorses a law which is profoundly illegal with regard to international law – the supremacy of which Suriname must respect – and profoundly immoral and politically cynical, all the people of Suriname will therefore suffer the consequences.
“However, we are confident that the judiciary, faced with this historic opportunity of preserving the rule of law in Suriname, will act with independence and impartiality and will ignore the Amnesty Law,” Amnesty International said, adding “it should be noted that one by one, amnesties have been declared null and void in the Americas and those who have passed them or benefited from them have been brought to justice or have been discredited in the face of their citizens.”