Desiré Delano Bouterse

27.04.2016 ( Last modified: 24.10.2016 )
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Désiré “Dési” Bouterse was born on 13 October 1945. He then went to the Netherlands to undergo military training.

In 1980, five years after Suriname’s independence from the Netherlands, Bouterse rose to power by instigating a military coup d’état, and became President of the National Military Council. He established a military regime accused of being responsible for numerous human right violations.

In the night of 8 to 9 December 1982, 15 opponents to the military regime (lawyers, journalists, soldiers) were kidnapped and led to a military base where they allegedly were tortured and executed. These events are known as the “December murders”.

Bouterse was accused of being directly involved in those murders. The only survivor from this massacre, Fred Derby, confirmed Bouterse’s involvement. However he passed away in May 2001 before being able to testify in the proceedings.

In 1999, Bouterse was sentenced in abstentia by Dutch Courts to 11 years in prison for drug trafficking. An arrest warrant was issued against him, however Suriname refused to extradite Bouterse to the Netherlands.

On 19 July 2010, Bouterse is elected President of Suriname.

legal procedure

In 1983, United Nations’ Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) declared that the “December murders” constituted an arbitrary deprivation of life according to article 6 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and required Suriname to investigate those crimes.


On 20 November 2000, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal, seized by a complaint from the families of victims, ordered that a criminal investigation be launched into Bouterse involvement in the torture and murder of 15 political opponents, committed in Suriname on 8 and 9 December 1982, on the basis of the universal jurisdiction principle. The Court considered that Bouterse could not be granted immunity related to the exercise of his functions, because of the criminal nature of the offences.

The attorney general appealed this decision. On 18 December 2001, the Supreme Court reversed this ruling, considering the application of the Convention against torture to acts committed before its adoption violated the principle of legality established by the article 16 of the Dutch Constitution.

The Court also called into question the application of the universal competence in abstentia. Considering that Bouterse was in Suriname and that the victims were not Dutch nationals, there was no direct link between the Dutch judicial authorities, necessary for initiating prosecution.


A preliminary judicial investigation was opened in Suriname in 2000. The trial against Bouterse and 24 of his collaborators started in November 2007 before a military Court located on Boxel’s naval base. Bouterse, who never appeared before the Court, was accused of culpable homicide, torture, and the summary executions of 15 people.

On 9 March 2012, one of the accused soldiers, Ruben Rozendaal, testified that Bouterse had personally killed two of the 15 victims: Cyril Daal and Soerindre Rambocus. Shortly after this testimony, in April 2012, the Parliament passed an amnesty law by a vote of 28 to 12. This law granted amnesty to Bouterse and 24 others suspects for their alleged involvement in the “December murders”.

The prosecutor then requested the suspension of the trial until the Constitutional Court could reach a decision regarding the constitutionality of the amnesty law.

On 14 July 2015, Bouterse was reelected for a second mandate as President of Suriname.

On 9 June 2016, the military Court found the amnesty law unconstitutional and ordered the proceedings to resume.

On 29 June 2016, Bouterse invoked article 148 of Suriname’s Constitution, which allows the President to order the discontinuation of a procedure when it jeopardizes the internal security of the State. According to Bouterse, all charges against him represent a danger for the economic situation of Suriname.

On 30 June 2016, the military Court postponed its decision regarding the resumption of the trial against Bouterse and the 24 other suspects. On 5 August 2016, this decision was postponed once again.