|Pres. Desi Bouterse|
Guno Castelen, the chairman of Suriname’s labour party SPA, is worried about “subtle threats” President Desi Bouterse has launched at the judiciary. Discussing the twenty-year prison demand the Military Prosecutor called for last week Wednesday, Bouterse criticised the judiciary and said that his Government would soon come with “necessary measures … within the confines of constitutional law.”
He did not specify what he meant exactly, but it was enough reason for Castelen to be worried. The opposition Member of Parliament (MP) said Bouterse is obviously trying to intimidate the judge in the case. “He singled out the judge and that is cause for concern,” the SPA leader said.
The prison demand for Bouterse was lodged by Military Prosecutor Roy Elgin at the height of the tediously moving December Murders trial; Bouterse and 24 other defendants are on trial for the killings on December 8, 1982, of 15 opponents of Bouterse’s then military rule. Elgin also demanded 20 years for another former soldier who is a defendant in the case. For three other defendants he has demanded that the cases against them be dismissed. The trial is ongoing.
Bouterse, who is serving his second term as the democratically chosen President, responded with scorn to the prison demand. “If God put me here as President, who is a judge to send me away?” he asked on Friday at a meeting with prominent members of his National Democratic Party (NDP).
Castelen said it was remarkable that the President would take aim at the judge, while at this stage it’s the Military Prosecutor who called for a prison sentence and the judge is not even in play yet. “The President knows the difference between a prosecutor and a judge full well, as much as he knows the difference between a demand and a sentence. He knows that we are past the phase of prosecution and that it is now up to the judge to decide whether and for how long he will go to prison. The fact that he mentions the judge hints that he wants to send a signal. And that signal is meant for the judge,” the SPA leader said.The trial began in 2007.