El presidente de Surinam suspende su viaje a Cuba tras la condena por asesinato
El presidente de Surinam, Dési Bouterse, regresó al país sudamericano días después de que un tribunal lo declarara culpable por los homicidios de 15 adversarios políticos 1982 y lo sentenciara a 20 años en prisión, informa la AP.
Bouterse llegó a Surinam este domingo tras un viaje a China, y suspendió una visita oficial a Cuba que tenía previsto iniciar el lunes.
Más de 1.500 simpatizantes que fueron trasladados en autobús recibieron a Bouterse.
El presidente rechazó comentar sobre la decisión de la corte, salvo para decir que fue un veredicto con motivos políticos. Señaló que está más concentrado en las elecciones programadas para mayo de 2020.
El tribunal no emitió una orden de arresto luego de histórico veredicto del viernes.
En febrero de 1980, Bouterse encabezó un golpe de Estado, conocido como la “Revolución de los Sargentos”, que derrocó el Gobierno de Henck Arron y le situó como “hombre fuerte” del país.
Después de incidentes violentamente reprimidos por los militares, el 8 de diciembre de 1982 fueron ejecutados 15 opositores al régimen militar en el Fuerte Zeelandia, en la capital, Paramaribo.
El proceso judicial que concluyó el viernes con el veredicto se dilató durante más de una década debido al entorpecimiento de Bouterse, que después de ser elegido presidente de Surinam en 2010 aprobó una ley de amnistía que sería declarada finalmente inconstitucional.
Después de que fuera reelegido, en 2016 ordenó a la Fiscalía del país suramericano la interrupción del proceso en nombre de la seguridad nacional, medida también rechazada por la Justicia por tratarse de un proceso ya en marcha.
Bouterse nació en 1945 en el seno de una familia con distintos orígenes étnicos y en 1968 viajó a los Países Bajos para enrolarse en las fuerzas armadas de la antigua metrópoli.
De vuelta a Surinam, en 1980, junto a poco más de una decena de compañeros, encabezó la “Revolución de los sargentos”, que instaló hasta 1991 una dictadura, interrumpida en 1987 de forma temporal por unas elecciones bajo presión internacional.
Elegido en elecciones parlamentarias en 2010 con su formación, Mega Combination, obtuvo 23 de los 51 asientos del Parlamento de Surinam, aunque sin la mayoría absoluta.
Bouterse, ya como presidente, cargo que renovó en 2015, reconoció a sus compañeros de golpe y, además, declaró el 25 de febrero, la fecha del alzamiento militar, como día nacional del país, lo que le valió el rechazo internacional.
La historia de Bouterse con los tribunales no es reciente. En 1999 fue condenado, en ausencia, a 11 años de cárcel por un tribunal de Holanda por tráfico de drogas, aunque no pudo ser extraditado porque lo impedía la ley de Surinam.
La condena contra Bouterse en Holanda estaba relacionada con su supuesta vinculación con el cartel de Suri, que introduciría droga en Europa procedente de Surinam y Brasil.
El hijo del presidente, Dino, también ha tenido problemas con la justicia. En 2005 fue sentenciado a ocho años de cárcel por tráfico de drogas, entre otros delitos, además ser sentenciado en Estados Unidos por sus lazos con el grupo terrorista Hezbolá.
Supporters greet Suriname president after conviction
More than 1,500 supporters welcomed Suriname President Desi Bouterse as he returned Sunday to the South American country just days after a court convicted him in the 1982 killings of 15 political opponents.
Bouterse dismissed the 20-year prison sentence that he received on Friday as he greeted supporters following an official trip to China.
“There is a lot of love in my party,” he said during a press conference held at a nature resort close to the airport, adding that the decision by the panel of three judges was unexpected. “It was clear that the verdict was political.”
Bouterse declined further comment, saying he was advised by his lawyer to not talk about the ruling. He only said that he would meet with his advisers and members of Parliament on the strategy to follow, adding that he is focused on the May 2020 general elections.
The court did not issue an arrest order for Bouterse following its verdict, and defense attorney Irvin Kanhai has appealed the decision.
The court verdict followed a trial that began in 2007 and faced multiple setbacks, including efforts by Bouterse to halt the legal proceedings and push through an amnesty law that was ruled unconstitutional.
The victims in the case, known in Suriname as the “December killings,” included some of the country’s most prominent citizens, including lawyers, journalists and a university professor.
Bouterse first seized power in Suriname following a coup in 1980, five years after the small country gained independence from the Netherlands. He stepped down under international pressure in 1987, then briefly seized power again in 1990.
He was then elected president in a parliamentary vote in 2010 and reelected in 2015.
Bouterse had been scheduled to visit Cuba on Monday but postponed the trip.
President Bouterse must step down
Almost 37 years after the brutal killings of 15 persons in Suriname and innumerable attempts to delay and thwart legal proceedings, President Desi Bouterse has been brought to justice over his role in this most heinous event.
A military court in Suriname on Friday convicted the President of murder for the execution of the 15 persons in 1982 and sentenced him to 20 years in jail.
President Bouterse, who was on a visit to China at the time that the ruling was handed down but has since returned to Suriname, must now step down from office. He is entitled to appeal the decision if he so wishes must not do so from the seat of the Presidency.
Friday’s decision in Paramaribo was a triumph of the rule of law even if the decision was not handed down by a civilian court as should have been the case. The conviction of a sitting Head of Government by a domestic court in a case of this magnitude and gravity must be recognised as requiring fortitude and courage. Tragically the families of the 15 victims have had to wait for nearly 37 years to gain a sense of justice.
Particularly since Suriname is a member of CARICOM it is important that the gruesome events of December 8, 1982, as was the case of those in Grenada in 1983, be well recalled within the region and among its people.
The court ruled on Friday that Mr Bouterse had overseen an operation in which soldiers under his command abducted 16 leading government critics – including lawyers, journalists and university teachers – from their homes and killed 15 of them at a colonial fortress in Paramaribo known as Fort Zeelandia. One trade union leader, Fred Derby survived and later courageously gave testimony against Mr Bouterse. Mr Derby passed away in May 2001.
According to an Amnesty International account, during the arrests, violence was used in some cases and the homes of some of the detainees were vandalized. According to eye-witnesses, the men were barely given the opportunity to put clothes on, and their families had to stay inside their homes for several hours, guarded by one or several soldiers. On the morning of the 9th December 1982, bodies were delivered at the mortuary of the local hospital. As soon as this became publicly known, hundreds of people gathered there, creating a tense atmosphere.
On 14 December 1982, then Lieutenant Colonel Bouterse appeared on Suriname television to report that 15 people, detained on suspicion of plotting a coup, had been shot while trying to flee from custody. However, reports received by Amnesty International at the time indicated that the victims had been shot through the front of the head or chest. Eyewitnesses who subsequently identified the bodies in a city mortuary testified that the victims had severe bruising and cuts on the face, smashed jaws, broken teeth, fractured limbs, and multiple bullet entry wounds in the face, chest or abdomen.
Among the victims were Cyril Daal, chairman of the Moederbond, Suriname’s largest trade union confederation; Kenneth Gonçalvez, Dean of Suriname’s Bar Association; Bram Behr, Leslie Rahman and Frank Wijngaarde, journalists; Jozef Slagveer, director of the Informa news agency; Andre Kamperveen, owner of the ABC radio station and former Minister of Culture and Sport; Gerard Leckie, Dean of the University of Suriname; Suchrim Oemrawsingh, a university lecturer; and businessman Robby Sohansingh. Two of the victims, Soerindre Rambocus and Jiwansingh Sheombar, were reported to be former army officers who had been in military detention for nine months, accused of involvement in an attempted coup in March 1982; they had been sentenced in November that year to long terms of imprisonment. The remaining three victims, John Baboeram, Eddy Hoost and Harold Riedewald, were their defence lawyers.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee had also found that “the victims were arbitrarily deprived of their lives contrary to article 6 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and had long recommended that Suriname “take effective steps (i) to investigate the killings of December 1982; (ii) to bring to justice any persons found to be responsible for the death of the victims) (iii) to pay compensation to the surviving families; and (iv) to ensure that the right to life is duly protected in Suriname.”
The military court on Friday evening later convicted six other former military officers, including the consul to neighbouring French Guiana, of murder for their part in the episode, including forcibly removing victims from their homes at night or participating in the shooting.
Suriname will now be watched closely on how it addresses the ruling of the court and the first important marker would be the President himself standing down and facing justice. The President has had a long history of adverse entanglement with the law and constitutional rule.
As a junior military officer, Mr Bouterse took part in the 1980 coup against Suriname’s first prime minister, Henck Arron, and immediately promoted himself to army chief-of-staff, becoming de facto head of the government.
Mr Bouterse left the army in late 1992 and went into business and politics, leading the pro-military National Democratic Party (NDP).
In 1999, Mr Bouterse was convicted in absentia of drug trafficking by a court in the Netherlands, though he has denied any wrongdoing.
It was also of immense interest here that leaked cables by US diplomats to Washington showed that there had been contacts between Mr Bouterse and Guyanese drug trafficker Roger Khan. Reports in the Dutch media had said that the US Drug Enforcement Administration had accumulated hard evidence that the two had been in contact while Mr Bouterse was a parliamentarian and there are records of calls between the two in late 2005 to mid-June 2006.
As it relates to the 1982 murders, Mr Bouterse and his NDP had consistently tried to obstruct court proceedings which began in 2007. In 2012, the NDP-controlled National Assembly passed an amnesty law giving him immunity but this was later invalidated by a Suriname court.
Now that the historic ruling of the court has been handed down, Suriname and its people have the basis on which to move forward and must do so with full respect for the rule of law and for the courts. The onus is now on President Bouterse to take the first step.