The Conclusions of the ICJ on the 8 December Trial (VIDEO)

Posted on | mei 31, 2012 | No Comments

The International Committe of Judicials, represented by Dr. J. Handmaker,  has published its findings and observations on the 11 May 2012 Trial, presided by Mrs C Valstein Montnor, president of the Court Martial, founded to try those individuals suspected of having committed crimes against humanity on 8 December 1982.

The Main conclusions of the ICJ correspond with the observations from both Dutch and Surinamese lawyers, who all agree that the Court Martial has in fact distanced itself from the Trial, putting it back in the hands of the State Attorney’s office.

The ICJ also expressed concern over the fact that the victims are not treated in accordance with the constitution, because the trial is not dealt with in time, and their plight is not heard.

The ICJ, also expressed concern over the fact that the president on May 11 did not set a time limit. The trial is open ended, and runs the risk of frazzling…dying a slow and soft death, induced by time and government pushing it into a deep and dark corner of the archives.

Other conclusions of the ICJ are however not in accordance with the actual situation in the country.  Other sources mention the callous disregard of certain categories for the trial. Several sources have mentioned the one sidedness of information channels, the fact that the state television and the state-owned radio station are in the hands of the government, the fact that many media self-censor and withhold information. The discrepancy between these sources and the observation of the ICJ are striking:

On page 9 Dr. Handmaker writes:

The ICJ was very positive about the high regard and outspoken support
expressed by citizens of Suriname for!the!Court,!and!by!the!outspoken!attitude of!
the Judge President Cynthia Valstein Montnor In addition,! the! ICJ! noted!
pronounced messages!by!some!of!the!accused,!who!expressed!a!wish!for!the!trial!
to continue without further delay.
Finally,! the! ICJ! was! positive about the
relatively! high! level! of! press! freedom! in the! country! and! the! free! exercise! of!
expression by journalists,! although! also! noted! that! the! situation! had! shifted! in.

His observation on the freedom of the press which he asserts is untarnished despite some threats here and there is however uncanny. Since 2010 several journalists have been threatened and one incident of a beating has been reported. There is a culture of threat and fear enhanced by a speech of the president on May 5th 2012, when he called the opposition ‘enemies of the state”. Prior to the 1982, Mr Bouterse used similar wordings to disqualify the actions of the opposition, many of whom victims of the December 8 Massacres. The press is consistently being curtailed, threatened and excluded from government venues. The press by the same token self-censors and seem to lack tenacity and courage to pursue matters to the fullest.

Reports that during the trial (a) secret agent was caught filming the people and the proceedings were not factored into the findings of the ICJ, a clear signal that government at best, tried to influence and coerce the Judiciary. The report also expressed its awe over the presence of various diplomats at the trial. Although admirable, the presence of international observers could not undo the verdict that what is written, edged on paper.


The key findings of the ICJ correspond with the observations of seminal lawyers in and outside Suriname, rather the fact that the Court Martial let the personal prevail instead of doing their jobs. The fact that they wanted to escape the wrath of the president, his loyal followers and his allies cannot be regarded as an extenuating circumstance. The fact that fear ruled in the courtroom is cause for great concern, a telltale sign of democratic decay.

The report itself cannot be qualified as thorough. Little investigation on free press, public opinion and political situation disqualifies this report as a worthy and valuable source of information. This is not the first time that such has happened. At a book presentation of Hans Budding, editor at large for the prominent and very credible Dutch Newspaper NRC, the lack of credible information on Suriname, the political situation, the opposition and how they use social media also gave rise to false conclusions and ideas on Suriname in general was uncanny and at one point very disturbing. specifically when taking into account that Mr Budding has written a book on the history of Suriname. Mr Budding went on to consistently refer to official channels and sources, disregarding the empirical. At one point he referred to the Surinamese people as fun-loving and gentle……a reference almost too much to absorb. This way of assessing and analyzing Suriname is very problematic, because  the consistent cloaking of the deep seated  political and social difficulties using anecdotal images instead of experiences and evidence stand in the way of finding credible and sustainable solutions.

In that regard I can consider the Tweets by Pieter van Maele transmitted via Twitter during the Trial of great value, because it helped prepare us for the worst. The Verdict that was made public last week not only held valuable information on the future of the proceedings, it merely confirmed what was already known, that the judges would simply not risk their personal lives.

AUTHOR: Natascha Adama
E-MAIL: nataliapestova23 [@]


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