President responsible for murder of journalists and activists
Trained as a soldier, Bouterse first came to power in 1980 and ruled the country with "an iron hand" from 1980-1987 and 1990-1991, callously violating human rights. Five journalists were among a total of 15 pro-democracy activists executed on 8 December 1982 under his purview.
After the massacre, soldiers set fire to the premises of Radio ABC, Radio Radika and the daily newspaper "De Vrije Stem". No independent media was permitted to operate under Bouterse. Only state radio SRS and the daily "De Ware Tijd" functioned.
Sentenced to 11 years in prison in absentia in the Netherlands in 1999 on a charge of drug trafficking, Bouterse is still facing a 20-year prison term in Suriname if convicted of the 1982 massacre.
He asserts that he has recognised his political responsibility for the murders, but he has never admitted to being directly involved. While leader of the main opposition party, he tried many times to persuade parliament to pass an amnesty law.