Mass murder trial to restart in Suriname

In this Aug. 12, 2015, photo, Suriname President Desire Delano Bouterse salutes during a military parade, after being sworn in for his second term, in Paramaribo, Suriname.
Associated Press / Ertugrul Kilic, File

A court has ordered authorities to resume a stalled mass murder trial in the Caribbean Community nation of Suriname in which President Desi Bouterse is the main suspect.

The bombshell announcement came late Thursday just as opposition parties, labor unions and civic groups are preparing for a series of mass demonstrations in the city and other districts next week to protest the devaluation of the local dollar, stark cost of living increases, a basic wage freeze and a host of other ills which they have led to a significant decline in living standards.

The court of justice ruled late Thursday that the trial pertaining to the December 1982 murders of 15 government opponents must restart despite efforts by government and parliament to quash hearings because of alleged national security concerns.

The 15, including four journalists, opposition politicians, academics and clergymen were executed at a fort which is ironically right next door to the office of Bouterse. Bouterse at the time was army commander and the country’s military strongman, having led a February 1980 coup that had toppled the elected administration of President Henck Aaron.

The head of state in his second elected five-year term has persistently denied being present at the colonial era fort where the 15 were executed. He has also consistently denied giving the orders for firing squads to aim and pull the triggers felling the 15.

The mass murders cause widespread condemnation in Caricom and the hemisphere. The Netherlands, the country’s former colonial power has pushed for the trial, aiming to particularly get Bouterse behind bars. Nearly two dozen former soldiers and officials are on trial but Bouterse is the main suspect.

The case has been postponed several times since the commencement of hearings back in late 2007. The public prosecutor’s office had asked that the case be dismissed because the security of the state would be jeopardized from emotional testimony emerging from witnesses. Parliament had even invoked a special clause in the constitution mid last year to stop the case mainly on the grounds of protesting state security but the court has now sent the matter back to a military tribunal to restart hearings.

Online service, Star News, reported quoted Eddy Daal, brother of slain union leader Cyril Daal as welcoming the decision noting that “justice shall prevail. God does not sleep, but we want people to see things quickly.”

Justice Minister Eugene van der San said government will get its day in court like all others. “It is a decision of the court of justice. There will come a moment in which the executive will be in charge will be,” he told a parliamentary sitting.

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