Politicians in the Netherlands have called on the government to state whether or not it would be making an attempt to have Suriname President Desi Bouterse arrested while he is in that country to attend the funeral of the late South African president Nelson Mandela on Sunday.
PVV Second Chamber members Geert Wilders and Raymond De Roon coincided with calls from an anti-Bouterse movement for rescinding the amnesty law that could provide a pardon for his role in the murders of 15 citizens in 1982.
A statement from the Guyana-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat said that Bouterse would be among regional leaders attending the funeral along with the leaders from Trinidad and Tobago, The Bahamas, Guyana and Jamaica.
In their questions to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, the legislators said they did not think it was prudent for Bouterse to be present at any formal ceremony at which their king is in attendance.
“Do you agree with us,?” they asked , adding also they wanted to know whether the government was willing to request South Africa to arrest Bouterse and extradite him to the Netherlands to serve his jail term on cocaine trafficking charges.
Bouterse was convicted in absentia in 1999 and given an 11-year jail term. He has consistently denied involvement in cocaine trafficking and managed to evade arrest and prison time by not travelling internationally until he became President in 2010.
Since his swearing in he has travelled extensively, but never through this country.
The Netherlands, which has relentlessly pursued him, has given mixed signals in recent years since he became head of state.
The Netherlands has gone from initially saying that Bouterse would only be welcome in the country if he came to sit out his sentence, to saying that he would be welcome, but only as President, as he is protected by the function.
Bouterse’s South Africa trip will be his first since his son Dino was arrested in August on drugs, weapons and terrorism charges.
Dino, who appeared in court last week, has been visited by his mother, but his father –who has said that the arrest was like a kick in the gut- has not travelled to the United States to be at his son’s side.
Meanwhile, the December 8, 1982, murders were marked last weekend with ceremonies in Amsterdam and in Suriname at the Fort Zeelandia where they were committed.
At least 24 people, including Bouterse, are on trial for murder, but the trial that was initiated in Paramaribo in 2007 got derailed indefinitely in 2012 when Parliament passed an amendment to the Amnesty Legislation.
On the occasion of 31st anniversary of the murders, the families of the murder victims called on Suriname’s Parliament to reverse the amendments.
In a statement, they said Parliament is responsible for passing the law, and therefore has the responsibility to withdrawing it.
“Passing this law was a violation of the constitution of Suriname and international law and order. We appeal to you to withdraw this law that allows murderers to walk free in our community,” they said, adding that rescinding the legislation would allow for the case “that was in an advanced stage” to continue.
“The amnesty law had no other objective than to pardon people who are guilty of human rights violations,” they said.
Bouterse has in the past accepted “political responsibility” for the “December Murders”, and said that they had been committed in moment of youthful ignorance. He has however steadfastly refused to be present at the court hearings.
Canciller dice que Bouterse no podrá ser detenido porque goza de inmunidad
Desi Bouterse kan tijdens de uitvaart van Nelson Mandela niet worden aangehouden en uitgeleverd aan Nederland, omdat hij als president van Suriname immuniteit geniet. Dat schrijft minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Frans Timmermans (PvdA) in antwoord op Kamervragen van Geert Wilders (PVV). De PVV-leider wil dat Bouterse wordt uitgeleverd aan Nederland …
om hier zijn gevangenisstraf van elf jaar uit te zitten wegens betrokkenheid bij cocaïnetransporten. Wilders vindt het vanwege het verleden van Bouterse ongepast dat hij samen met koning Willem-Alexander aanwezig is bij de plechtigheid. Hij krijgt echter nul op het rekest.
“De uitspraak van de rechtbank waarbij Bouterse is veroordeeld blijft van kracht, maar kan niet tot uitvoering worden gebracht, zolang hij als staatshoofd van Suriname internationaal immuniteit geniet”, schrijft Timmermans. Verder hecht Nederland er belang aan om de bijeenkomst bij te wonen; daar spelen uitnodigingen aan ‘andere genodigden’ geen rol bij.
Wilders reageert teleurgesteld. “Erg teleurstellend dat het kabinet niet eens een poging zal doen de veroordeelde crimineel Bouterse te laten aanhouden en uitleveren als hij in Zuid-Afrika is en zich bij voorbaat al neerlegt bij zijn immuniteit”, stelt hij. “De angst om op te treden tegen Bouterse overheerst blijkbaar bij de heer Timmermans.”