Desi Bouterse’s murder conviction will not trouble him much

TWO DAYS after a military court found Desi Bouterse, Suriname’s president, guilty of murdering 15 political foes, he returned home from a visit to China. A throng of supporters, many wearing the purple of his National Democratic Party, turned up to greet him at Paramaribo’s international airport on December 1st. Mr Bouterse brought back a promise of $300m to upgrade airports and roads and install solar power and 5G internet services. But the welcome was a defiant show of loyalty to a leader who has dominated his tiny country’s politics for four decades.

Mr Bouterse’s conviction for murders that took place in 1982, and the 20-year sentence that goes with it, are unlikely to dislodge him. He helped lead a “sergeants’ coup” against an elected government in 1980, five years after independence from the Netherlands. He was elected democratically as president in 2010 and re-elected five years later. He may well repeat that feat next year. Few Surinamese expect Mr Bouterse to serve a day of his sentence. The appeal process could drag on for ten years, says the vice-president, Ashwin Adhin.

The murder victims were foes of Mr Bouterse’s regime—journalists, lawyers, scholars, soldiers and businessmen. Fearing a counter-coup backed by the Netherlands, the regime rounded them up at night and held them in Fort Zeelandia, built in the...

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