University of Minnesota




Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Suriname, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.66, Doc. 21 rev. 1 (1985).


 

 

CHAPTER II
RIGHT TO LIFE


A. Applicable International Law

The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man holds:

Article I. Every human being has the right to life, liberty and the security of his person.[1]/


B. Applicable Domestic Law

General Decree A-11, Articles 3 states:

Everyone has a right to physical, psychic and moral integrity.


C. General Considerations

The death penalty exists in Surinamese law but has not been formally applied in recent years. Of concern to the Commission, and this was pointed out in its earlier Report, General Decree 11 which establishes the Basic Rights and Duties of the Surinamese People, provides that in a state of emergency such as that in force since 1980, any and all rights can be suspended, theoretically at least, including non-derogable rights like the right to life. Of course the Government of Suriname has never adopted such a measure. Nevertheless, the mere legal possibility of such action is cause for concern.[2]/


D. Past Violations

The IACHR’s First Report primarily focused on the events of December 1982. On December 8-9 of that year, fifteen prominent Surinamese leaders, who had participated in actions aimed at restoring democratic rule to Suriname, were apprehended and taken to the main military compound at Fort Zeelandia in Paramaribo. There, they were brutally tortured and subsequently executed by military personnel.

The fifteen victims included the country’s prominent trade union leaders, journalists, court attorneys, including the head of the Bar Association, as well as two high-ranking military officers.

During the Commission’s 1983 investigation into these murders, neither civilian officials nor Lt. Colonel Bouterse urged a strictly juridical justification for the killings. Instead, Commander Bouterse maintained:

“This time we did not decide to wait until someone took out a shotgun, aimed and fired. In truth it has been a fact of the revolution versus a counter—revolution. Now that the reaction has been defeated and they no longer have support to rely upon, now they say we have gone into the streets and homes and taken out fifteen persons and without further ado, killed them. That is, that we have selected fifteen persons and that we have Killed them just like that. But they don’t say what would have happened if these persons and all the reactionaries would have achieved their purposes and all the progressive forces were to be killed.”

As a consequence, the Commission concluded that the overwhelming evidence obtained by the special commission indicated that the fifteen were brutally tortured before being killed and “that high Government officials participated, directly or indirectly, in their deaths.” Moreover, the Commission recommended that the circumstances of the murders be investigated and those responsible be punished accordingly.

In light of its conclusion in 1983 the Commission felt it unnecessary to investigate these murders any further. It was interested in determining, however, whether an appropriate investigation had been conducted and what were the results. The special commission, after repeated attempts to learn whether such an investigation had been carried out, came to the conclusion that no investigation, either by an independent national body or the Government itself, had been conducted, no one has been held responsible and no one has been punished.

In its observations on the preliminary report the Government states that “… the authorities (including the Army Commander)” declared “… emphatically before the human rights commissions of the OAS and UN that everything possible shall be done to prevent any recurrence” of the mass murder. Regarding the lack of a national investigation, the Government merely refers to the results of the investigation carried out by the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations, Dr. Amos Wako. The conclusion of the UN report is the same as the IACHR’s 1983 determination of responsibility.

As a footnote to this tragic episode in the national life of Suriname, a number of family members of the fifteen victims have asked for the opportunity to have the remains of the fifteen exhumed and studied by competent pathologists. Since no autopsies were conducted on the fifteen, this request appears reasonable, and the Commission, on behalf of the families hereby asks that those families that so wish, be allowed to exhume and re-inter their loved ones in a dignified manner.


E. Right to Life in Suriname since October, 1983

Since publishing its First Report on the Human rights Situation in Suriname the Commission has received only two complaints alleging the violation of the right to life by the Government of Suriname. One dealt with the death of Lothar Guno Secod, a soldier in the Surinamese army. The second concerned a series of deaths of seven other soldiers. The Commission has the names of four of the deceased. They are John Barow, Oscar Kluis, Madjinder Persad Poeran and Piqué.

As regardas the death of Private Sedoc, although the Commission was assured during its on-site visit that an autopsy would be provided in this case, it was never forthcoming. Rather, an affidavit was sent to the Commission, ostensibly signed by the parents of Private Sedoc. That statement asserted that Private Sedoc had been ill prior to his death and that for religious reasons a post mortem was not performed. Moreover, the affidavit indicates that Private Sedoc’s parents believe that their son died of natural causes.

With regards to the deaths of Privates Barow, Kluis, Poeran and Piqué the Government simply asserts that theses men too died of natural causes and that this was so established by an inquest. No inquest report was provided.

While the Commission is keeping these cases under investigation and is not yet prepared to pronounce upon them, it must note that the replies of the Government in both of these cases leave much to be desired, particularly in the latter case. In the cases of supposedly coincidental deaths of a number of young soldiers in a country where attempted coups are fairly frequent (as Lt. Col. Bouterse informed the special commission), it is not satisfactory in the Commission’s view to respond to such serious charges with an unsubstantiated statement that they “all died natural deaths.” The Commission assumes that the appropriate post mortems duly signed by qualified pathologists, will be soon forthcoming to allow further elucidation this serious matter.


Notes___________________

[1] / The Universal Declaration provides: Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states in relevant part: Article 6

1. Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. The right to life is non-derogable even during states of emergency.

[2] / In its Observations on the IACHR Report as a result of its visit to Suriname in 1983, the Government in addressing this same discrepancy, made the following statement: “These need be no doubt about the continuation of the search for omissions in the National Legislation concerning fundamental human rights, which search has started since February 1980 and these omissions will be removed. The vigorous promotion of the implementation of these provisions will be continued as well.

As previously pointed out, this development has set in since 25th February 1980. The contradiction between Article 21 of Decree A-11 (Statute of Basic Rights and Duties) and Article 4 of the International Convention regarding Political and Civil Rights noticed by the IACHR has the complete attention of the Surinamese authorities.”

 



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