The Surinamese court-martial will continue on April 30 with the substantive treatment of the December murders criminal case against the former president and ex-army leader Desi Bouterse.
This has become possible now that the court-martial president, Cynthia Valstein-Montnor, has dismissed all objections to Bouterse’s defence on Wednesday. The hearing took place in the court in Paramaribo.
Valstein-Montnor announced that she wants to interrogate Bouterse as a suspect on April 30. Bouterse himself may therefore call several witnesses. However, it is up to her to determine how many witnesses she will allow, Valstein-Montnor made clear.
Lawyer Irwin Kanhai, who defends Bouterse, said after the hearing that he did not yet know whether he would call witnesses. Bouterse himself said that as far as he is concerned, the case is progressing according to expectations. He said whether or not witnesses will be called, he said.
Attorney Hugo Essed, who represents the relatives of the 1982 victims, appealed to a court-martial to speed up the process. This could be done, for example, by having a session every week or, for example, by organizing a marathon session lasting a few days. “I am appealing to a court-martial to make sure this trial does not take 40 years,” said Essed, who indicated that it has now been 38 years since the murders were committed.
Bouterse was sentenced to 20 years in prison in November 2019 in connection with his part in the murder of 15 political opponents in December 1982. Because he never attended that trial, he was convicted in absentia. He then filed a notice of opposition, causing the court-martial to take up his case again.