Timmermans: Bouterse has immunity

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As President of Suriname, Desi Bouterse has immunity and therefore the Netherlands cannot request South Africa to arrest and extradite him when he attends the memorial service for Nelson Mandela.

This was Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans’ response today to questions by PVV Second Chamber members Geert Wilders and Raymond van Roon on Saturday, whether Government would make the request to South Africa. “Mr. Bouterse’s court sentence remains, but it cannot be executed as long as he is President,” Timmermans said.

Timmermans was pretty terse and almost dismissive in his responses, crisply answering “yes” to some of Wilders’ and Van Roon’s open questions. “Yes” to the question whether he knew Bouterse would be attending Mandela’s funeral and a short “yes” to the request whether he would answer before Tuesday, December 10th at 12.00pm. The Minster only elaborated in his response to the question whether he thought it prudent that Bouterse would be present at an event King Willem Alexander would be attending as well.

“South Africa has extended invitations to Heads of State and the Netherlands places high value on attending this extraordinary gathering; invitations to other heads of state are of no interest (to us),” he said.

To Wilders, Timmermans’ response showed that the Foreign Minister is being led by fear to take action against Bouterse. He said he was disappointed “that the Cabinet would not even attempt to have the convicted criminal Bouterse arrested and extradited, but rather chooses to bow preemptively to his immunity.”

Bouterse, a former army commander turned politician was sentenced in absentia in 1999 by a Dutch court for cocaine trafficking. He has consistently denied involvement in cocaine trafficking and did not travel internationally until he became President in 2010; he nevertheless always gave Schiphol a wide berth.

The President meanwhile traveled to South Africa on Sunday. More than 50 heads of state have confirmed that they will attend Nelson Mandela’s memorial service and funeral. Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected President, former Head of the African National Congress and international icon, died on Thursday December 5th, at age 95.

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