The prosecutor general’s office announced on Friday that Surinamese officials are currently looking for former president Dési Bouterse, as he did not surrender himself to begin serving a prison sentence for his connection to the killing of 15 political opponents in 1982.
Bouterse was ordered this week to report to jail, but his wife, Ingrid Bouterse-Waldring, told journalists outside their home early on Friday: “He’s not going to turn himself in.”
On Wednesday, officials instructed Bouterse and four other individuals who were found guilty in the case to go to different prisons by Friday. However, only three of them complied. Due to their poor health, they moved slowly towards the entrance of the prison while being trailed by reporters.
At the end of the day on Friday, 78-year-old Bouterse had still not made an appearance, causing the prosecutor’s office to release a brief statement stating that they were looking into individuals who had not surrendered to jail.
Previously, numerous supporters of Bouterse and his party, the National Democratic Party, gathered at his residence to demonstrate their backing. Some individuals shouted at reporters and blasted loud music, causing government officials to increase security precautions.
The government stated that they will take all necessary actions to ensure the safety of both those involved and the entire society.
The party’s spokesperson, Ricardo Panka, stated that they did not agree with the verdict and mentioned that Bouterse would continue to hold his position as chair. However, he also mentioned that the crowd had been instructed to remain peaceful.
He stated that we will not form a group of angry people to oppose the government.
In a significant legal case spanning 16 years, Bouterse was convicted for his involvement in the killings and received his sentence on December 20. He had previously appealed the rulings in 2019 and 2021.
A fresh group of attorneys submitted a challenge on Monday contesting the verdict, arguing that a previous attempt by Bouterse to pass an amnesty law over ten years ago would be relevant. However, the attorney general of Suriname denied the action on Tuesday.
The prosecutor’s office announced that they have initiated the procedure of locating individuals who were convicted in the December 8 criminal case and have not followed the order to report to the correctional facility for their sentence.
For many years, Bouterse was the prominent leader in the ex-Dutch territory’s political scene and stepped down from his position in 2020.
Bouterse led a bloodless coup to become dictator from 1980 to 1987. During that time, he and two dozen other suspects were accused of executing prominent people including lawyers, journalists and a university professor at a colonial fortress in the capital of Paramaribo.
Bouterse has acknowledged “political accountability” for the 1982 murders, but maintains that he was not physically present.
He was democratically chosen to serve as president from 2010 to 2020.