US concerned about plans to amend Suriname Amnesty Act

(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO — The United States of America is concerned about plans to amend the 1992 Amnesty Act, stating that it causes a sense of unease. The US argues that the constitutional state is a significant pillar of democracy.  ‘We therefore object to any step which might harm the constitutional state,’ US Ambassador John Nay tells de Ware Tijd. He has already reported recent development in Suriname to the State Department. Nay respects democratic choices and authorities of Parliament, but he stresses that nothing may block the constitutional state. The Ambassador did not go into details on the possible effects amendment of the Act might have on the bilateral relations. In the meantime, national and international criticism on the proposed amendment is mounting. A statement by Amnesty International says that the bill is a blatant attempt of President Desi Bouterse to avoid investigation of human right violations during the military regime. It calls on Parliament to reject the bill. Javier Zuniga, special advisor to Amnesty International, says that no amnesty can be awarded to people who have committed serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions. ‘Crimes under international law cannot be subject to amnesty,’ he emphasizes, adding that Suriname is compelled to investigate and try suspects of such crimes. In a reaction NDP faction leader Ricardo Panka wonders where Amnesty International was when amnesty was granted to certain groups in 1992. The legislator says he is prepared to explain his motives for introducing the bill. Legislator Ronald Venetiaan (NF) counters that coalition parties now want to absolve crimes that have been committed in 1982. The victims back then were tortured. Theo Vishnudat, chair of the reporting committee, argues that the bill was introduced as long ago as 2007 and that it is now simply refreshed. ‘We know we’ll be able to get it passed this time. The coalition back then did not think it necessary to have debates on the issue. If they had done so then, they could’ve rejected it with their majority. Their current objections are therefore not valid.’

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