Suriname opposition skewers amendment to Amnesty Act

(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO – Yesterday, opposition members, at times supported by some coalition members, tore to pieces the proposed amendment to the 1989 Amnesty Act submitted by some coalition members. During the first rounds of debates, members of the Nieuw Front (NF) fraction wasted no time in making mincemeat of the proposal and the arguments used by its supporters. The initiators impatiently waited their turn to speak, which they will be allowed to defend the proposal during the second round after the remaining legislators have had their say.

At the very start of the session, Speaker Jennifer Geerlings-Simons urged legislators not to let emotions prevail during the debates, no matter how difficult this may prove to be. She asked not to discuss the ‘December murders’ trial as the bill has nothing to do with this. NF fraction leader Radjkoemar Randjietsing (VHP) pointed out that the amendment’s intent goes against the Constitution, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the Treaty on Civil and Political Rights and the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights. Randjietsing listed many reasons why the proposal should be rejected, saying, “We can’t support this proposal and stop the ongoing trial, as the 8 December trial alone will yield an independent and impartial verdict, and then it will be clear whether the Amnesty Act is compatible with our Constitution and international treaties.”

The politician believes that Parliament, if it passes the proposal, will trample on the Constitution if the December murders trial is stopped, because the basic rights of the injured parties seeking redress at the independent judiciary will be violated. Randjietsingh also pointed out that with the bill, amnesty will be granted to perpetrators and suspects without knowing the true extent of their crimes and why “the victims have fallen” and that Parliament should not cooperate in passing the bill because it has not been investigated whether the crimes covered under the bill can be subject to amnesty.

Suriname is party to international treaties that consider crimes against humanity punishable under all circumstances. Guno Castelen (NF/SPA) called the bill a violation of the rights of suspects, as he believes they want to prove their innocence in court, and will be deprived of the right to clear their names. He asked the initiators to withdraw their proposal, as its passage would create and cement the impression that the December murder victims were engaged in subversive activities. Castelen supported statements by fellow legislator Oesman Wangsabesari (KTPI), who mentioned that amnesty has been granted in other countries, but he added that those amnesties had to be revoked under international law, mentioning the example of Moiwana ’86, where the State was convicted because the survivors wanted to know the truth and did not want reconciliation.

The legislator deplores the fact that Parliamentarians have publicly expressed doubts about the judiciary’s objectivity, saying, “We’ve taken the genie out of the bottle, but can you control it after you’ve lost your own credibility?” He believes the judiciary is doing its job to the best of its ability. “You won’t have reconciliation when you use a majority to force through a law”, Castelen says, claiming that even some initiators have doubts about whether the amendment is the right thing.

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