The Netherlands, the former colonizer of Suriname, has failed in a spirited bid to persuade other European nations to impose sanctions on the Caribbean trade bloc nation because its Parliament recently approved a motion to grant amnesty to soldiers and civilians who overthrew the government in 1980 and participated in the mass execution of 15 civilians two years after the coup.
The Dutch brought the issue to the European Union assembly last week with the aim of punishing those in authority, but other EU nations appeared not to be very interested in the issue, much to the chagrin of the Hague.
The country’s 51-seat Parliament controversially voted 28-12 last month to approve the amnesty, just as a local court was getting ready to hear closing arguments in a mass murder case involving incumbent President Desi Bouterse and more than 20 ex-soldiers and civilians involved in the December 1982 murders. The civilians were executed for allegedly plotting a counter-coup with Western nations.
Bouterse, 66, said the amnesty was not aimed at perverting the course of justice, as the trial will continue, but “to heal the nation” of an open wound that has hung around the necks of its citizens for nearly 30 years.
But opposition parties and civil society groups have been railing against the amnesty and are looking for ways to have it condemned and overturned internationally.
Dutch lawmaker Thijs Berman raised the amnesty issue at the European Parliament, but failed to get the support of other nations to impose economic sanctions on Suriname.
The Hague has already recalled its ambassador and has told local authorities he will not be returning, withholding $30 million in grant aid earmarked for the country.
If the Dutch had had their way, top Suriname officials, mostly the 25 suspects involved in the ongoing trial, would have been banned from traveling through E U countries.
The local De Ware Tijd newspaper quoted Dutch legislator Kathleen Ferrier as saying that she had hoped for the travel ban and other forms of agreed sanctions, but as it is not to be so far, she wants the EU “to engage in harsh dialogue with Suriname.”
Suriname’s Caribbean trade bloc neighbors have so far stayed away from commenting on the issue, perhaps because the amnesty was granted by the nation’s highest constitutional forum or because civil society and other groups have not lobbied them.