Victim’s son calls Suriname Amnesty Act amendment `stab in the back’

(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO/THE HAGUE – Yesterday, Yasser Riedewald (29), son of Harold Riedewald, one of the victims of the 1982 ‘December murders,’ left the Parliament building during the vote on amending the 1989 Amnesty Act, as he finds it difficult to swallow that in spite of fierce protests by the opposition, it seems the coalition will rush through the proposed amendment, and that his father and the fourteen other December victims are now portrayed as common criminals who wanted to topple the ‘legitimate government.’

“This is a stab in the back. You can’t give a murderer anmesty”, says Yasser, who was just born when his father was killed. Yet he is realistic and says it was just a matter of time after Desi Bouterse’s election as President until the amendment’s initiators had achieved their desired objective. He is convinced that the young parliamentarians among the initiators, Andre Misiekaba and Melvin Bouva, have been used by Bouterse, saying, “Politics is a very dirty game in which people abandon their principles, but if you have a moral backbone, you’ll deal with it differently”. Yasser respects the individual’s right to have an own opinion, but finds it hard to believe Parliament has passed the amendment, calling it an “injustice of the highest order”. “I now know there’s no justice in Suriname”, says Yasser, who is Riedewald’s youngest son and has three sisters and a brother.

Romeo Hoost, chairman of the Committee to commemorate the victims, believes the coalition has put Bouterse in a more difficult position with the amendment, adding that his committee and lawyer Gerard Spong will file a suit against Bouterse with the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity, “which is worse than what he is facing in Suriname.” “The passage of the Amnesty Act is already making a laughing stock out of a future truth commission, which would become a fairy tales commission, as people will tell tales now instead of the truth”, says Dew Baboeram, brother of victim John Baboeram. “A truth commission hears testimony and then rewards telling the truth, but that reward is already in place now,” he states, adding that both opposition and coalition have missed many opportunities to deal with the problem now that the Act has passed.

The passage of the Amnesty Act does not mean the suspects in the 8 December trial will get a free pass, as the Dutch government parties VVD and CDA, have asked Foreign Affairs Minister Uri Rosenthal to impose a visa ban for Europe on the suspects in case they are convicted by the court-martial. The VVD and CDA believe the Amnesty Act is an unacceptable infringement on the principles of the constitutional state, endangers Suriname’s democratic future and position in the international community.

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