Diplomatic fallout after Suriname amnesty law

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The diplomatic fallout continues after Suriname's parliament awarded President Bouterse amnesty for any involvement in the 1982 December Murders. Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal says Bouterse is only welcome in the Netherlands to serve time behind bars.

According to RTL-News, Minister Rosenthal made the statement after a cabinet meeting on Thursday. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said there would be consequences for Suriname and that it would be "completely unacceptable" if the trial against Bouterse were stopped. Desi Bouterse was convicted of drug smuggling in absentia by a Dutch court in 1999.

Suriname's parliament adopted a controversial amnesty law that could prevent the country's president, Desi Bouterse, and other suspects from being punished for his alleged role in the 1982 December Murders.

After three days of meetings, 28 MPs voted in favour of the law and 12 voted against. It was an emotional vote in parliament. The law was passed after a roll call vote. Members of the opposition, including former President Venetiaan, requested a roll call vote so that it would be clear to the voters which MPs were in favour of the law and which MPs voted against. 

It remains unclear what effect the new legislation will have on the criminal case against President Bouterse, which is already underway. The president is suspected of having ordered and participated in the murders of 15 people who opposed the Bouterse-led military regime. Bouterse seized power in a military coup in February 1980 and was the de facto head of state until 1988.

Ambassador recalled
Dutch Minister of Foreign Afairs Uri Rosenthal says the new amnesty law is “extremely disappointing”. In response, he has recalled the ambassador for Suriname to discuss the matter. The conservative VVD, Christian Democrats and the Dutch Freedom Party agree with Rosenthal’s decision.

By recalling the ambassador, Mr Rosenthal is sending out the right signal, says Dutch lawyer Gerard Sprong, who has worked for years to bring Bouterse to trial. But Mr Sprong does not believe recalling the ambassador is enough: “I think a travel ban should be imposed on the suspects in this case, as well as on the MPs who have voted for the amnesty law.”

According to Mr Sprong, the Netherlands should also consider stopping certain aid projects. "Suriname should pay the price for this decision," he said.
 

(dcf/hs/nc)

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