What do if you are a dictator who is accused of murdering your opponents?
Why, you just tell the biggest lawyer to drop all the charges against you.
That’s what President Dési Bouterse of Suriname, South America’s smallest country, has just done.
Dési, who is now 70, was on trial for abducting summarily executing 15 political opponents in 1982 when he was Suriname’s military dictator.
The dead 15 were lawyers, journalists, teachers and trade unionists who spoke out against Desi’s military dictatorship, which he led from 1980 to 1991, although he orchestrated various ‘presidents’ to be titular heads of state.
The 15 were snatched from their beds in the early hours of 7-8 December 1982, taken to Dési’s HQ, where they were first tortured and then shot
He’s now invoked Article 148 of Suriname’s constitution, which allows the president to issue orders in the interests of national security. So he has instructed the country’s attorney general to put an end to proceedings.
Dési has form when it comes to avoiding the law. In 2000 he was sentenced in absentia in the Netherlands to 11 years’ jail because he was found guilty of trafficking 474 kilos of cocaine. He’s never served any time however; thanks to his position as President he’s managed to avoid it, even though Europol has an international warrant for his arrest
Dési returned to power in 2010 when he was democratically elected president by parliament. In 2012 Bouterse’s supporters pushed an amnesty law through parliament. He was re-elected by parliament after general elections last year.
However in June, the supreme court declared the amnesty law invalid and ordered the resumption of the trial against Bouterse and 24 co-defendants.
His son, Dino, was convicted in the US in 2005 of leading a cocaine and illegal arms ring, but is now part of Suriname’s counter-terrorism force.
Picture source: Pieter Van Maele via Wikimedia Commons