University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Suriname, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.61, Doc. 6 rev. 1 (1983).





A. The Constitution of 1975

1. Suriname formally obtained its full independence on November 25th, 1975. In 1954, Suriname already enjoyed a high degree of independence by virtue of obtaining autonomy within the framework of the Netherlands except for matters pertaining to foreign affairs and defense.

2. Its political Constitution was unanimously approved by the Staten (Chambers) of Suriname of November 19th, 1975. Previously, in October of the same year, the First and Second Chambers of Holland had enacted the law authorizing independence.

3. By its Constitution, Suriname became a republic. It adopted the institutional framework of a parliamentary democracy, with popular sovereignty, expressed in the election and replacement of the authorities through secret and universal suffrage, separation of powers of the State and establishment of constitutional rights and guarantees. The Constitution established the following institutions; the Government (Executive Power), the Parliament, the Consulting Council, the Chamber of Accounts, the Judicial Power and the Constitutional Court.

4. The Government was made up of the President and the Ministers.

The President was elected by the Parliament for a term of 5 years and could be reelected to another term (Article 21). The President was the Chief of State and it was his duty to ensure compliance with the Constitution (Article 20).

The ministers, individually and collectively responsible to the Parliament in the exercise of their functions, formed the Council of Ministers to be presided by the Minister-President. The Council of Ministers formulated the policies to be pursued by the Government (Article 24).

5. The Parliament represented the people of Suriname (Article 52). It was composed of 39 members elected through secret and universal suffrage. Twenty-seven of them were elected in electoral districts established by law, the remaining twelve members were elected by the proportional representation system (Article 54). The Parliament was elected to a 4-year term (Article 54), but it could be previously dissolved by decree.1 Dissolution also implied calling for new elections (Article 64).

6. The Legislative Power was exercised jointly by he Government and Parliament. Both had the right to introduce bills (Article 87). The resolutions of Parliament were adopted by a majority of votes, unless the Constitution required a qualified majority (Article 74). Once a bill was approved by Parliament, it became law when ratified when it was so decided by the Council of Ministers unless, within a period of 14 days, an appeal had been introduced before the Constitutional Court by the President, the Attorney General or at least one third of the members of Parliament, if it was felt that the bill was incompatible with the fundamental rights established in the Constitution (Article 97). The supremacy of the constitutional text was established i.a. in Article 86. If the Constitutional Court decided that a bill violated wholly or in part the fundamental rights that bill could not be ratified by the President (Article 100). Laws could become effective immediately for reasons of urgency, gravity or general interest, but they were subject to be later declared unconstitutional if they violated the mandates concerning the fundamental rights.

7. The Consulting Council was composed of a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 9 members. The Vice-President of Parliament was a member as well as the President of this Council whose members were elected by decree for a term of 5 years (Article 80). The Consulting Council was to be heard on: bills; decrees; treaties requiring the approval of Parliament; in cases where requested by the Government; administrative disputes to be decided by decree and in all other cases provided by the Constitution and the laws. In addition, the Consulting Council could advise the Government on its own initiative (Article 810).

8. The Chamber of Accounts was composed by at least 3 and a maximum of 5 members in addition to 3 alternate members. The members were designated by decree by proposal of Parliament and their terms were for life. In those cases provided by law, they could be suspended or removed by the Court of Justice (Article 82). The Chamber of Accounts was responsible for controlling the legality and effectiveness of the administration of the State's finances (Article 83).

9. The Judicial Power was formed by the Court o Justice, the Attorney General, judges and other judicial officials established by law (Article 131). The Court of Justice, supreme tribunal of Suriname, was responsible for ensuring the legal functioning of the courts of the country (Article 144). The members of the Judicial Power and the Attorney General were nominated for life. Their nominations were effected by decree after the Court of Justice had been heard (Article 145) and they could only be removed from their posts in the cases provided by the Constitution, at the request of the Court of Justice and after the Consulting Council had been heard (Article 147, 148).

10. Ordinary judges heard all juridical controversies (Article 132). N the specific cases they heard, it was of their competence to declare unconstitutional any mandate contrary to the individual guarantees established in the Constitution (Article 133). The proceedings were public except in those cases where the law established otherwise (Article 134). Any intervention by another power in judicial matters was prohibited (Article 135).

11. The prosecution of crimes was the responsibility of the Public Ministry which was exercised by the Attorney General. He was the Chief of the Public Ministry and had the power to instruct police officers on the prevention and investigation of all crimes. In addition, the Attorney General was responsible for ensuring the proper performance of police duties (Article 137).

12. The Constitutional Court was composed of the President of Parliament and 4 members. The Court was presided by the President of the Court of Justice or his alternate. Three (3) principal members and three (3) alternate members were proposed by Parliament and nominated by decree while the Court of Justice proposed one principal member and one alternate. They served for a 5 year term and could be reelected (Article 139).

13. The Constitution could be amended by law, requiring a majority of at least two thirds of the members of Parliament (Article 154).

14. In the first chapter, the Constitution established the fundamental human rights in Suriname. Moreover, in its preamble, it made reference to the value of such rights when pointing out that the people of Suriname, through their representatives in Parliament, adopted the Constitution: a) based on the principle of equality of all citizens before the law regardless of race, sex, religion, personal or political beliefs; b) convinced of the duty to respect and guarantee the fundamental rights and liberties, c) inspired on the ideals of liberty, tolerance, democracy and progress of Suriname, and d) determined to live in peace and to work and cooperate with all the peoples of the world on the basis of respect for liberty, equality, fraternity and human solidarity.

15. Article 1 established the right of those in Suriname to be recognized as persons before the law and to the protection, without discrimination, of their persons and possessions. No one could be prejudiced or condemned due to race, sex, religion, personal or political beliefs.

16. In addition, Chapter I contained the right to written petition to the respective authority (Article 4); the freedom of religious and personal beliefs (Article 5); freedom of education (Article 6); the freedom of thought and the right to give and receive information without prejudice to the responsibilities that could originate in complying with the law (Article 7); the right to meet and associate (Article 8); freedom of unionize and the right to strike (Article 8); the right to due process of law within reasonable time and by an independent and impartial judge (Article 9); the right to trial (Article 10); the right to legal counsel (Article 11); the right to personal safety and liberty and to the principle of law (Article 12); the recourse of habeas corpus and the right to compensation in the event of illegal deprivation of liberty (Article 12); the prohibition of confiscation of possessions or death as legal punishment (Article 13); the right to respect for private and family life including the inviolability of the home and of correspondence (Article 14); the right to own property. Expropriation could only occur in the public interest in accordance with the regulations established by law and with previous compensation (Article 15); the right to free and nondiscriminatory access to public office (Article 3). The right to vote for nationals 21 years or older was established in Chapter III of the Constitution, referring to Parliament (Article 53(1). The Constitution also established that nationals could not be expelled from the national territory and could always return to it. The law would regulate the admission and expulsion of foreign nationals (Article 2).

17. With regard to cultural rights, the Constitution established that the State would see that each individual received education aimed at the full development of his personality and that each person participated in cultural life and enjoyed the fruits of scientific progress. This without detriment to the right of parents to educate their children in accordance with their personal or religious beliefs (Article 16).

18. With regard to economic and social rights the Constitution also established that the State would be responsible for: the economic well-being of the population; employment under conditions of freedom and justice; everyone's participation in the economic progress and adopting measures for the benefit of those who, for reasons beyond their control, could not sustain themselves (Article 17).

19. In addition, Chapter I established the limits to the power of authorities to restrict rights. It prescribed that, in the pertinent cases, those restrictions could only be resorted to, to the extent they were necessary in a democratic society and did not fundamentally affect the respective right (Article 18). In addition, neither an individual nor a group of individuals, even in an official capacity, could carry out any activity whose objective was to destroy or limit the fundamental rights beyond what is provided for in the Constitution (Article 19).

20. The Constitution established the necessary conditions to suspend certain rights, the consequences of such suspension and the authorities competent to impose it. In case of war or danger of the public order that would fundamentally affect the interests of the State, a state of war or siege could be imposed over part or all of the territory. The law had to regulate the consequences of that decision that could affect freedom of movement, the right to expression, meeting and association, respect for private life and written, telephonic, and telegraphic correspondence and the resolution of juridical conflicts by regular judges. In the event a state of siege was imposed, the law could make military justice applicable to all or part of the respective territory.

21. A state of war or siege could be imposed by decree, whose continuation needed to be immediately decided by Parliament. The decision to continue the state of war or siege required the affirmative vote of at least two thirds of the registered parliamentary votes (Article 125).

B. The interruption of the constitutional order. Beginning February 25th,

22. After the declaration of independence and under the order established by the Constitution of 1975, the first elections were held on October 31st, 1977.

23. The first elections were won by the block of parties known as the NPK (Nationale Partijem Kombinatie, National Combination of Parties). This electoral combination was formed by the NPS (Nationale Partij Suriname, National Party of Suriname) and by the PSV (Progressieve Surinaamse Volksparty, Progressive Popular Party of Suriname) of essentially creole extraction; by the KTPI (Kaum Tani Persatuan Indonesia), of Javanese origin, and by the HPP (Hindoestaanse Progressieve Partij, Progressive Hindu Party). The largest of these parties was the NPS.

24. On the opposition's side, only the VDP (Verenigde Democratische Partijen, United Democratic Parties) obtained seats in Parliament. This combination was composed of VHP (Vooruitstrevende Hervomings Partij, Reformist Progressive Party) of Hindu extraction and the largest in that combination; by the Pendawalima (Janavese) and by the SPS (Socialistische Partij Suriname, Socialist Party of Suriname).

25. The small parties of the left, like the PALU (Progressive Arbeiders en Landbouwers Unie, Progressive Workers and Peasant's Union) and the Vokspartij (Popular Party) did not obtain representation in Parliament.

26. The NPK, led by the leader of the NPS and Prime Minister, Mr. Henck Arron, elected 22 members of Parliament. The VDP, led by the chief of the VHP, Mr. Lachmon, elected 17 members of Parliament. As a result of the elections, Prime Minister Arron proceeded to form a new government.

27. Th performance of Arron's cabinet provoked increasing unrest among vast sectors of the population of Suriname. The most important targets of dissatisfaction with the government were: a) a continuously deteriorating economy which produced increased unemployment; b) the administration and nature of the extensive development assistance program signed with Holland; c) the backward state of the interior of the country where when development projects were implemented this did not take into account the interests and aspirations of the residents of the area; d) the massive migration of people to Holland; e) the nomination of a successor to a vacant parliamentary seat ignoring the regular admission procedure; f) the handling of vindications existing in the army including the functions of a trade union organization (BoMika, Bond Van Militair Kader: Military Cadre's Union).[1]

28. Under those circumstances and due to pressure by the opposition and the intervention of the President of Suriname, the Government agreed to move up the date of parliamentary elections by a year and a half, setting the date for March 27th, 1980.

29. In the context of the situation previously described, the non-commissioned officers of the army stage a coup d'etat on February 25th, 1980, deposing the Arron government. He military created the NMR (Nationale Militare Raad, National Military Council) formed by 8 non-commissioned officers (Bouterse, Sital--President of the NMR--Neede, Mynals, Horb, Abrahams, van Reyand Joeman) and assumed the government of the country. The military coup, relatively bloodless, was not opposed by the vast majority of the population. This was possibly due, in addition to the circumstance described before, to the first statements and attitudes of the military, expressed in the NMR, which assured the population of the prompt formation of a civilian government, respect for human rights and the maintenance of the other institutions of the Republic, including the president and Parliament.

C. The institutional evolution since the coup d'etat of February 25th, 1980

30. In order to better understand the evolution experienced by Suriname from the coup d'etat to the present, it would be convenient to distinguish three periods. The first one lasts until the fall of J.H. Ferrier on August 13th, 1980; the second comprises the government headed by Dr. Chin A Sen for approximately a year and a half; and the third one covers from the resignation of Dr. Chin A Sen to the present time.

a) First Period, from February 25th until August 13th, 1980

31. In Bulletin No. 1 of February 25th, 1980, the National Military Council declared that it was assuming the military, police and governmental leadership of the country; that it was making a call to all individuals regardless of race, profession, political or religious beliefs, to join the process of social, economic and moral reorientation; that it would not have assumed the government had good sense won over rancor, hatred and arrogance, and dialogue over confrontation. Lastly, the National Military Council called on the residents to comply with military orders and stated that it was committed to fully respect the basic democratic principles of the law in Suriname.

32. On the same day, the National Military Council, through Bulleting No. 2, in describing the success of the military intervention, stated that, unfortunately, this had not been bloodless; that it would respect the well being of all citizens; that it guaranteed everyone's personal safety and that no more victims were necessary; that it would respect all treaties to which Suriname was a party and that subscribed to the principles and objectives of the United Nations. In addition, it expressly recognized the value of all fundamental human rights as established in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties and similar treaties.

33. A delegation of the National Military Council was received by the President of Suriname, doctor Johan H. Ferrier, on February 26th. Upon the conclusion of the meeting, an official communique was released stating that a delegation of that Council had informed the President that, as much as possible, they would remain within the boundaries of the Constitution, and that their actions were aimed at achieving the highest interests and the well being of the people of Suriname.

In addition, it stated that:

1. A Government would be formed as soon as possible with the attributions established in the Constitution.

2. Measures would be taken to ensure that the policies of that government were as effective as possible in consultation with the National Military Council when necessary.

3. The armed forces and the police would be under the national Military Council.

4. The Constitution would be studied to determine if any amendments were necessary. If that were the case, the respective proposals were to be submitted to the people of Suriname.

5. The general elections which were going to be held on March 27th, were suspended until a date to be later determined.

34. On March 31st, the National Military Council delegated the administration of the State to a government formed by 2 military men under the direction of Dr. Hendrik Rudolf Chin A Sen.

35. In the presentation of its program on May 1st, 1980, the government announced its intention of initiating transformations aimed at eliminating corruption and reorganizing the State's apparatus, developing an income distribution policy; increasing the economic independence of the country and reforming and improving the educational system. In order to realize those objectives an emergency program containing 20 points was also presented. Among them: to end the delay in the payment of family allowances and pensions; the development of a system of compensations due to illness; to strengthen the role of women in society; the construction of 100 low-income housing units; the improvement of the Paramaribo drinking water system; the development of agriculture; initiation of the Kabalebo project; utilization of the army in the national development.

36. The Parliament convened on two occasions. First on April 3, 1980, when it approved a bill exempting from legal responsibility those who had committed crimes between February 25th and March 31st inclusive (date in which the new civilian government took over). Parliament convened a second time on March 20th, 1980. On that occasion, Parliament through law of March 20th, 1980, (Machtingingswet, Staatsblad 1980, No. 28) delegated its legislative powers to the government which, from that date on, could act by decree. That delegation included the power to temporarily suspend and amend existing laws. However, exempted from the scope of those powers were the fundamental rights and guarantees established in Chapter I of the Constitution.

37. During this first period, a number of conflicts relating to the institutional development of Suriname arose. The President of the Republic, Dr. Johan H. Ferrier, who had insisted on the need to convene the Parliament even stated that, if that was not the case, he would resign. Also in this period, members of the Consulting Council expressed their dissatisfaction with some of the provisions of decree B-9 of September 8th, 1980 (Staatsblad 1980, No. 72), by virtue of which a Special Court (Byzonder Gerechtshof) was established which would judge conduct in public office which although it may not constitute a crime was "totally repudiable on the basis of generally accepted moral and ethical norms".

The decree was retroactive to January 1st, 1970. Also, a source of conflict during this period were the existing lines of authority not clearly defined between the Government, the National Military Council and Parliament.

38. In this context, Mr. Desiré D. Bouterse, who had assumed the post of Chief of the Army since July of 1980, denounced the existence of a conspiracy aimed at staging a military coup involving 3 members of the National Military Council, (Sital, Mijnals, Joeman) and an undetermined number of civilians. This situation led the military authorities to issue General Decree A, of august 13th, 1980 (Staatsblad 1980, No. 59) by which the following measures were adopted:

1. The government would be assumed by the Military Authority (Militaire Gezag).

2. The Military Authority would name a new President, accepting the resignations of Ferrier and of the Council of Ministers.

3. Government would be exercised by the Military Authority together with the President and the Council of Ministers as soon as these assumed their offices.

4. A state of siege was imposed over the whole territory.

5. The Constitution was suspended. It would be possible to lift the suspension of all or part of the constitutional text by decree.

In addition, on the same date, General Decree A-1 (Staatsblad 1980, No. 60) was adopted b by virtue of which Parliament and the Consulting Council were suspended until further notice.

b) Second Period, from August 14th, 1980, until the resignation
of Dr. Chin A Sen

39. On August 14th, General Decree B was adopted by virtue of which Dr. Hendrick Rudolf Chin A Sen was named President, assuming the duties of office on August 15, 1980.[2] Dr. Chin A Sen proceeded to form a new cabinet which would remain in office for approximately one year and a half.

40. In this period, important conflicts arise within the State of Suriname relating to the nature and adequate means of the political development to be followed in a context characterized by the existence of several power centers, without clear boundaries to the scope of their competence. These conflicts would finally lead to the resignation of Dr. Chin A Sen, at the request of the military authorities, on February of 1982.

41. President Chin A Sen had expressed the need to establish a democratic-presidential Constitution, with a bicameral parliament and based on popular sovereignty. Added to that was the denial of the President to accept in the Program of Government 1982-1984 a paragraph which stated that the holding of elections were not contemplated in the near future.

42. As a result of the conflicts which had emerged, the Military Authority requested that the power to govern be unconditionally transferred to them as of February 4th, 1982, which was established by General Decree A-3 (Staatsblad 1982, No. 9).

43. By General Decree A-4, also of February 4th, 1982, the Military Authority is formed as follows: Commander of the National Army, D.D. Bouterse, Garrison Commander of the national Army R.D. Horb and by the Battalion Commander of the National Army H.A. Fernandes.

44. The Military Authorities would proceed to nominate within a short period of time a new President and Council of Ministers and establish the scope of their competence. A new body was created, the Political Center (Beleidscentrum), which became the most important governmental body in Suriname and whose composition was determined by the Military Authorities.

c. Third Period, from the resignation of Chin A Sen in February of 1982 to the present

45. Judge L.F. Ramdat was named as the new President of Suriname.

46. On March 11, 1982, there is an attempted coup directed by Lieutenant Rambocus. This officer frees Sergeant Major Hawker, who had been involved in an attempted coup on March 15th, 1981, and was serving a 4-year jail sentence. They both demand holding free and secret elections and the formation of a government of national unity. The attempted coup fails. Sergeant Hawker, wounded and in a stretcher, makes a statement on television and is then summarily executed.

47. The Military Authorities impose a state of war by General Decree A-7 of March 11th, 1982 (Staatsblad 1982, No. 50). Shortly thereafter, on March 31st, a government is formed headed by Mr. Nijhorst.

48. During this period, a vast social movement develops in Suriname, propelled by churches, union leaders, lawyers, doctors, journalists and students whose banner is the return to democracy, holding elections and satisfaction of important trade union vindications.

49. The tragic events of December 8th, 1982, take place in the context of repression of those social and union movements.[3] On that day, Commander Bouterse declared on television that there had been an attempted coup d'etat and that the army had made several arrests. In addition, he announced the following measures: 1) the imposition of curfew; 2) closing of borers and air space; 3) restrictions to the freedom of assembly; 4) the closing of several newspapers and radio stations, and 5) the closing of the university.

50. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet resigned as a result of the events of the 8th and 9th of December.

51. Not before February 28th, 1983, is a new government formed, this time having Mr. L.A. Alibux as Minister-President and also as Foreign Affairs Minister. On May 1, 1983, this new government presents its Program for the period 1983-1986. With regard to the political system of the State, the Program denounces as decadent and corrupt the previous democratic-parliamentary system and states its intention of educating the population in a new democracy that will allow the peoples' participation and effective control of government. It also announces the creation of a commission which will present projects on a National Democratic Congress and a Council of State. The Program does not establish mechanisms that will ensure general participation in the preparatory commissions nor does it make reference to the manner in which these projects would be approved. The Program neither guarantees unequivocally that the institutions that will be created will be based on universal suffrage, secret and informed. Nor does it make reference to the participation of all citizens, without discrimination, in the conduct of public affairs.

D. Organization of the State under the present political system

52. With the 1975 Constitution abolished, the present organization of the State of Suriname lacks any constitutional basis and has been established through decrees. Of special importance are, General Decree A-9 of March 25th, 1982, (Staatsblad 1982, No. 61), which refers to bodies invested with governmental powers and their scope of authority; Decree C-64 of March 25th, 1982, (Staatsblad 1982, No. 64), which refers to the rules governing the functions of the Political Center; Decree C-65, of March 25th, 1982, (Staatsblad 1982, No. 65), which regulates the functions of the Council of Ministers and General Decrees A-4 of February 4, 1982, (Staatsblad 1982, No. 21) and A-4A of March 30th, 1982 (Staatsblad 1982, No. 75) with regard to the Military Authorities. Decree A-9 contemplates three governmental institutions: 1) the President, 2) the Political Center and 3) the Council of Ministers.

53. The President performs essentially formal functions and is nominated by the Military Authorities.

54. The government is exercised by the Political Center and the Council of Ministers (Article 4 of Decree A-9).

The Political Center is the most important governmental body as established by General Decree A-9 (Article 4). The composition of the Political Center is determined by the Military Authorities and must include the Commander and the Vice-Commander of the National Army and the Minister-President.

55. With regard to the powers and functions of the Center, Article 2 of Decree C-64 further established that: 1) the highest administrative power in the nation resides in this body; 2) mandatory universal regulations require the approval of the Political Center and must be signed by the President and the Military Authority; 3) the Political Center must make the recommendations in order for the President to name the Ministers, Vice-Ministers, Members of the Judicial bodies and all the other high bodies of the State; 4) the designation of officials to the institutions where the State has an interest, is also subject to the approval of the Political Center, 5) the members of the Political Center, who are not members of the Council of Ministers, have the right to attend, without vote, the meetings of this Council. In addition to these functions, according to this same Decree C-64, it is the Political Center's responsibility to determine the political direction of the revolutionary process and establish the overall policy of government. The President must ensure that the Cabinet follows the policy established by the Center (Article 4). The resolutions of the Political Center are adopted by simple majority of votes and can only be adopted if more than half of its members are present.

56. The Political Center is currently presided by Lieutenant Colonel D.D. Bouterse and is formed by doctor L.E. Alibux, Minister President and Minister of Foreign Affairs and General Affairs, and by W. Caldeira, Minister of Finance and Planning. Mr. R.W. Cruden, a lawyer and President of the Progressive Workers Organization acts as Secretary.

57. The second body of government, the Council of Ministers, meets, as established in Decree A-9, presided by the Minister-President who is also responsible for the uniformity and coordination of governmental policy. Both the Ministers and the Deputy Secretaries are individually and collectively responsible to the Political Center. The Ministers and the Deputy Secretaries are named and removed from their posts by the Minister President if the Political Center has so determined it. In both cases it is also required that the Military Authority concur by signing the nominations and the dismissals. In accordance with Article 2 of Decree C-65, the Council of Ministers must carry out the policies established by the Political Center. In addition, this institution cooperates in the elaboration of public policy; and deliberates when its opinion is required, particularly with regard to drafts of regulations, proposed nominations, suspension and dismissal of positions specified by the Political Center.

58. The Political Center also plays a central role in the performance of legislative functions. In accordance with Decree C-64, general rules of a mandatory nature require the approval of that Center. Those rules must be signed by the President, the Military Authority and by the respective Minister of Ministries. In accordance with General Decree A-10, of March 25th, 1982, (Staatsblad 1982, No. 62) laws are thereon called decrees. Given the nonexistence of a constitutional text, the legislative power further implies constituent power.

59. With respect to the judicial functions, a number of transformations have been made relating to the independence of the regular judges, their sphere of competence and the role of the Court of Justice.

60. The guarantee of the nomination of life of judges has disappeared. Moreover, their nomination has come under the competence of the Political Center. The powers of Military Justice have been broadened. Thus, crimes of civilians together with military personnel now come under the jurisdiction of Military Justice. It has also been established that in the event of war or exceptional situation those citizens trying to overthrow the civilian or military authority will be tried by Court Martial. In the situation last described, the "Army Cadres" can even impose the death penalty with no other requisite than a hearing of the accused. The decision to impose the death penalty is unappealable.

61. In the other cases, the decisions of the Courts Martial can be appealed to the High Military Court which is composed of a President, a Vice-President and a maximum of 5 members, preferably military. The President and the Vice-President must be lawyers. The members of the High Military Court are proposed by the Military Authority and named by the President.

62. While in the previous regime the Court of Justice was the highest court in Suriname, since the creation of the High Military Court this, in fact, has become the highest court for the most important matters with regards to the observance of human rights. The Commission was able to ascertain that the magistrates of the Court of Justice are presently limited in their functions in that they cannot intervene in matters related to the preservation of public liberties.

63. In summary, the political power in Suriname is presently concentrated, exclusively, in the Military Authority. The extensive executive and legislative powers concentrated in the Military Authority through the Political Center, as well as the influence of that Authority on the Judicial Power, create a situation also characterized by the absence of a higher regulatory structure by which the legality of the Military Authority's actions can be evaluated. Since there is no Constitution, each decree, if that were the case, revokes the previous one, in a way that the law becomes the will of the Military Authority at any given moment.

64. As a result of the tragic air accident in which the Battalion Commander of the National Army, H.A. Fernandes lost his life, the composition of the Military Authority is modified, being reduced by General Decree A4-4 of March 30th, 1982 (Staatsblad 1982, No. 75), to Commander of the Army D.D. Bouterse and Garrison Commander Horb. A new change took place thereafter, when, according to the authorities, Commander Horb committed suicide while accused of grave charges against the security of the State and under arrest at the Fort Zeelandia prison.

a) Fundamental rights and liberties under the present political system

65. General Decree A-11 of March 25th, 1982 (Staatsblad 1982, No. 63) established the basic rights and duties in Suriname, after the 1975 Constitution was abolished.

66. Decree A-11 (Article 1-11) recognizes the following civil rights and duties:

- The right to political, social, economic and cultural self determination.

This includes the right to natural resources, with regard to which, if international cooperation is required, this must be based on the principles of mutual benefit, solidarity and respect for international law.

- The principle of equality before the law. No one can be discriminated against due to birth, sex, race, language, origin, education, economic standing, social circumstance or reasons derived from any other status. The State has the duty to promote the necessary conditions for the equality of all citizens.

- The right to physical, moral and psychic integrity. No one shall be subject to torture or degrading or inhumane treatment or punishment.

- The right to freedom of work and the prohibition of forced labor.

- The right to personal liberty and security. The deprivation of liberty is prohibited except in those cases provided by law and in accordance with the procedures established therein. Any person deprived of liberty has the right to treatment in accordance with humanitarian principles.

- The right to respect for private life (privacy), family, home and personal honor. An authorized person may only enter a home in accordance with the pertinent legal dispositions.

- The inviolability of written, telegraphic and telephonic correspondence.

- Freedom of religion and personal beliefs.

- Freedom of opinion.

- Freedom of the press.

- Freedom of association and peaceful gathering.

- The right to petition.

67. The economic rights and duties established (Articles 11-13) were:

- Work constitutes the social responsibility of citizens.

- It is the State's obligation to promote productive work for all.

- The right to minimum conditions of work including equality of salary without discrimination; safe and healthy working conditions; a limit on the number of work hours per day as well as the right to sufficient rest and recreation; equal employment opportunities; right of pregnant women to leave with salary for a reasonable period of time.

- Right of the individual as well as the society to own property. The property must perform a social function. Expropriation can only take place in the public interest and in accordance with the rules established by law.

68. The following social rights and duties (Articles 14-15) are established:

- The recognition and protection of the family. This includes full equality between men and women; protection of the child, without any discrimination; the responsibility of parents toward their illegitimate children without distinctions.

- The State's promotion of public, regional and sectorial organizations to achieve true democracy.

69. The social rights and obligations established (Article 16-20) were:

- The right to education. The State will promote education and the educational conditions that will contribute to the development of a just and democratic society.

- It is the duty of the State to: create conditions to achieve the right to equality of educational opportunities: ensure adequate education and end illiteracy; ensure basic education for children; access, according to the capacity of each individual, to all levels of education and artistic creation.

- The right to provide free education without detriment to the State's control over public educational institutions. Private education tuition is subject to the State's authorization.

- The free exercise of science and technology and its promotion in accordance with national development objectives.

- The State is responsible for guarding, defending and increasing the cultural heritage of the people of Suriname.

70. Lastly, as a final disposition, Article 21 established, among other things that:

- The exercise of rights implies compliance with the duties toward society.

E. The suspension of constitutional guarantees

71. In the event of a state of siege, emergency situation, or due to reasons of national interest, national security, public order and decorum, the established rights may be limited by law taking into consideration the situation of the country.

72. By General Decree A-7 of March 11th, 1982 (Staatsblad 1982, No. 50) the Military Authority imposed the state of war in Suriname.

73. Also, on March 11th, Decree A-74 (Staatsblad 1982, No. 51) empowered the "military cadres" to, among other things, impose the death penalty in the event of a state of war or emergency with no other requisite than a previous hearing of the accused.

The emergency situation was reestablished in Suriname by General Decree A-8 of March 23rd, 1982 (Staatsblad 1982, No. 58).

F. International Law and human rights in Suriname

74. The State of Suriname was admitted to the United Nations on November 4th, 1975, and became a member of the organization of American States on June 8th, 1977. The Charters of both organizations include dispositions related to the promotion, respect and guarantee of human rights.

75. Suriname is also party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Facultative protocol of that Covenant, and to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In addition, it is party to several international treaties relating to human rights.

76. The present system relating to human rights, established by General Decree A-11, suffers grave deficiencies in light of the international obligations of Suriname. In this respect, it bears pointing out that by Article 2 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

Where not already provided for by existing legislative or other measures, each State Party to the present covenant undertakes to take the necessary steps. N accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of the present Covenant, to adopt such legislative or other measure as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in the present Covenant.

77. The following rights established in the Covenant and the American Declaration are not recognized in the aforementioned decree:

The right to Justice (see Article 2 (3) of the Covenant and XVIII of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man).

The nonretroactive character of criminal (penal) laws (see Articles 9 and 14 of the Covenant and XXVI of the American Declaration).

The prohibition of imprisonment for debts (Article 11 of Covenant and XXV of the American Declaration).

The right to suffrage and participation in Government (Article 25 of the Covenant and Article XX of the Universal Declaration).

Moreover, although Decree A-11 recognizes certain rights, that recognition is insufficient if the language of the Decree is compared with the formulations used in the Covenant and in the American Declaration. Such is the case of:

The right to nondiscrimination established in Article 2 of the General Decree which does not make express mention of discrimination based on political reasons (see Article 2 of the Covenant).

The right to enter and exit the territory of Suriname is not established in Article 5 of the General Decree, pertaining to personal liberty (Article 13 of the Covenant and VIII of the American Declaration).

The right to trade union freedom is not mentioned in Article 9 which refers to freedom of association (see Article 22 of the Covenant and XII of the American Declaration).

78. The 1975 Constitution of Suriname included the above-mentioned rights.

79. The provisions for states of exception established in Article 21 of Decree A-11, are in flagrant violation of Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These violations affect the necessary conditions for declaring a state of emergency, the absolute nonderogability of certain rights and the criteria governing the suspension of derogable rights.

80. With regard to the necessary conditions to declare a state of emergency, while in the language of the Covenant there must exist an exceptional situation endangering the life of the Nation, Decree A-11 allows derogation under any situation, including reasons of national interest, national security, public order and public morals.

81. The Covenant establishes as non-derogable the rights established in Articles 6 (right to life); 7 (prohibition of torture of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment); 8, paragraphs 1 and 2 (prohibition of slavery or servitude; 11 (prohibition of imprisonment for debts); 15 (nonretroactive character of criminal law); 16 (recognition as persons before the law) and 18 (right to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion). On the other hand, General Decree A-11, allows the derogation of all the rights established in the Decree.

82. Finally, it must be pointed out that while the Covenant requires that the suspension of all other rights be strictly limited to the exigencies of the situation, that it not be incompatible with other obligations pursuant to international law, and that it not engender discrimination, the General Decree only demands that the situation of the country be considered, without establishing deadlines nor mechanisms to review the suspension of rights.


1 During the constitutional period the decrees were issued by the Government. See subparag. 4.

[1] The Army consisted of 18 officers, 100 non-commissioned officers, 500 recruits and 150 civilians.

[2] By Decree B-4 of August 22nd, 1980, it was further indicated that the legal system existing prior to the coup d'etat continued in force except for the political and governmental systems.

[3] See Chapter II.


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