Murder Trial of Suriname's Bouterse Resumes

Surinamese courts announced on January 30 that the murder trial of President Desi Bouterse will resume on February 9, after an eight-month delay. A subsequent hearing is scheduled for February 17.

In what are now known as the December Murders, the now-president and 25 others stand accused of murdering fifteen political opponents in Fort Zeelandia in the capital of Paramaribo in 1982, during Bouterse’s time as dictator. The formal trial proceedings began in 2007 but have been repeatedly interrupted by the executive and legislative branch attempts to prevent or stall the trial.

Dési Bouterse led a coup d’état against the established Surinamese government in 1980 and ruled as a military dictator until 1987. In 2010, Bouterse was democratically elected  as president and reelected in 2015. Before becoming president, however, Bouterse ran a drug trafficking ring from Suriname and Brazil to Europe, specifically to the Netherlands, which cumulated in his conviction in absentia in the Netherlands for cocaine trafficking.

The murder trial officially began in 2007 and was near its end in 2012 when the Surinamese National Assembly extended an amnesty law designed to protect government officials from prosecution for various crimes. It wasn’t until June 2016 that the courts ruled that the extension of the amnesty law was unconstitutional and set a new hearing date.

On June 29, 2016,  one day before the trials was intitially set to resume, President Bouterse had his attorney general invoke Article 148 of the Constitution, which allows the president to adopt all the powers of the judicial system in the interests of national security. Last week however, the courts ruled that Article 148 couldn’t be applied to trials already in progress and that the president’s trial would resume immediately.

President Bouterse publicly claims that both the Dutch cocaine trial and the murder trial are politically motivated in order to keep him from power.