|Hundreds join silent march against amnesty law|
|Thursday, 12 April 2012 13:32|
Hundreds of people gathered in Paramaribo, Suriname to join a silent protest on Tuesday, April 10, against a newly passed law granting amnesty for President Desí Bouterse and 24 other associates who were on trial for the December 1982 abduction and murder of 15 political opponents in Suriname.
The silent march was organized in a joint collaboration with 23 civil and non-government groups, including religious leaders, arguing that the amnesty was a "violation to the rule of law." In solidarity, the large Suriname Diaspora in The Netherlands also gathered to protest in the capital city of Amsterdam.
The "December Murders"
The amnesty law, which was passed in the National Assembly last week, would immediately halt the trial prosecuting the brutal execution known as the "December Murders," when 15 opponents of then new leader Bouterse were killed, beginning December 8, 1982. Among the victims were several prominent journalists, lawyers, and union leaders.
Bouterse, who returned to power in 2010, has been at the violent forefront of Suriname's troubled government history. As leader of the Revolutionary People's Front, Bouterse overthrew the government twice in 1980 and 1990 and established a military regime which ousted civilian administrations. The amnesty law also seeks to pardon the Maroon Moiwana Massacre of 1986, where 39 ethnic Maroons were killed by Bouterse's soldiers.
Despite Bouterse's controversial history, he enjoys large support from the Suriname public, who returned the former military leader to power. As a mixed Surinamese with both African and American Indian ancestry, Bouterse has won strong support across the country's ethnic divisions. He particularly receives much support among young voters, with little memory of his early, violent years in office.
The Dutch government however has lambasted the amnesty law, arguing that stopping the trial would be "totally unacceptable." Bouterse is still wanted in The Netherlands for drug smuggling charges.
In response to the law's approval, the Dutch government also declared that all financial aid for Suriname will be cut in protest of the National Assembly's decision.
Meanwhile CARICOM officials have remained silent about the return of Desí Bouterse and the approved, controversial amnesty law. Bouterse has taken on a prominent role in CARICOM affairs since his return to office. Just last March, Bouterse served as Chairman of the 23rd Inter-Sessional Conference held in Suriname, where all CARICOM heads of government gathered to discuss a reform strategy for the community.