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 V
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT AND RESIDENCE


A. Applicable International Law

Article VIII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man establishes:

Every person has the right to fix his residence within the territory of the state of which he is a national, to move about freely within such a territory, and not to leave it except by this own will.

The appropriate provision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is Article 12, which states:

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.

2. Everyone has the right to leave any country including his own, and to return to his country.

In Article 12, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states:

1. Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.

2. Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.

3. The above-mentioned rights shall not be subject to any restriction except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order, public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Covenant.

4. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.


B. Freedom of Movement and Residence in Practice

Emigration from Suriname began a long time before independence. Racial tensions, socioeconomic crises and political conflicts have been the primary reasons for the large outflow of Surinamese from their country to Holland and various areas in the Caribbean.

In the decade preceding independence, there were two distinct waves of emigration. The first, lasting from 1964 until the 1971 Census was largely that of creoles leaving the country. The Census of 1971 showed that some 62,000 Surinamese left the country in the previous seven years Nearly 57,000 of them traveled to Holland. The second wave followed the 1973 election, when the rate of departure steadily climbed over previous levels. By 1974, one year before independence, the Asian community constituted a majority of those leaving the country. By and large, this group feared the possibility of a creole-dominated government and its negative effects on the Asian community, which represented the largest sector of the population.

By the end of 1975, from 130,000 to 150,000 Surinamese, nearly one-third of the population, lived abroad. Although these Surinamese have until 1985 to decide whether they wanted to stay in the Netherlands or return to their country, it appears unlikely that many will return. After independence, emigration came to a complete halt, but resumed again in 1978 when the stream of Surinamese to Holland again assumed large proportions.

While socioeconomic factors, uneasiness over the country’s stability and future under independence combined to stimulate the exodus from the country prior to 1980, the nature of emigration after the disruption of the constitutional order took a decidedly political turn.

Emigration figures for the past five years are unavailable because of the increasing number of illegal Surinamese in the Caribbean countries and Holland itself. However, the decline in the population between 1981 and 1983 shows that nearly 26,000 left the country during that period. Most specialist now place the total number of Surinamese living abroad at more than 200,000.

The population of Suriname continues to decline. As of 1983, the population was estimated at 353,000. The mass emigration deprived the country of all forms of labor and talent –killed and unskilled. Coupled with the fact that more than half the country’s population is under the age of 17, this brain drain led to a policy of encouraging emigration from Guyana and Haiti to assume many of the jobs left vacant by those who emigrated. Later in this section, we will deal with the recent mass expulsion of nearly 6,000 of the country’s estimated 30,000 Guayanese immigrants.

For the most part, Surinamese citizens continue to emigrate without Government interference. However, the special commission that visited both Suriname and Holland received complaints that relatives of those Surinamese living in Holland and suspected by the Government of working with the opposition are often refused passports to travel outside the country. Likewise, those Surinamese abroad who are considered opposition activists are prevented from obtaining new passports and returning home on personal business. The implication is that relatives serve as hostages limiting the conduct of Government opponents who reside outside the country. The Government as a practice does not prevent persons from returning to Suriname after long periods of residence abroad.

Surinamese opposition figures, who are considered “national security threats” by the Government, fear for their safety and possible arrest and imprisonment if they return without Government assurance as to their personal security.

Travel outside the country is severely restricted by foreign exchange control, which permits a national to take only $353 out of the country. The special commission received complaints while in Suriname that these foreign exchange restrictions had served as a pretext by officials at the national airport to strip search people leaving the country, as well as to rob them. These complaints, for the most part, came from the Asian sector of the society.

People are not restricted in traveling within the country or even moving residences or place of work. It should be noted that during the summer of 1984, the Government of Suriname lifted its nightly curfew that had been in effect since December 1982. This action had the palpable effect of creating a calmer, more stable climate in the country than that witnessed by the Commission during its 1983 visit.

The special commission queried Government officials about its policy of denying passports to certain citizens. Mr. Frank J. Leeflang, Minister of Internal Affairs and Justice, told the special commission that passports could not be granted while criminal investigations are being conducted. He maintained that national security took precedence over the right to free transit. Nevertheless, he said that even citizens who are criminals can return to Suriname without passports, by merely presenting a laissez passer.


C. Treatment of Aliens – Applicable International Law

The applicable provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are as follows:

Article 4. In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, color, sex, language, religion or social origin.

Article 12.

1. Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.

2. Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.

3. The above-mentioned rights shall not be subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order, public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Covenant.

4. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.

Article 13. An alien lawfully in the territory of a State party to the present Covenant may be expelled therefrom only in pursuance of a decision reached in accordance with the law and shall, except where compelling reasons for national security otherwise require, be allowed to submit the reasons against his expulsion and to have his case reviewed by, and be represented for the purpose before, the competent authority or a persona or persons especially designated by the competent authority.

Article 17.

1. No one shall be subject to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor or reputation.

2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference.


D. Treatment of Aliens in Practice

During the last week of January 1985, the Government of Suriname embarked on “Operation Clean Sweep”, an action carried out by the military authorities to deport Guayanese immigrants to their country. In the process, some 4,000-6,000 Guayanese immigrants were forcibly rounded up and transported to the deportation centers at Fort Zeelandia and Nickerie for a boat trip to Springlands, Guayana, where Guayanese officials reprocessed their entry.

While the special commission of the IACHR was in Suriname in January, it heard complaints from numerous government officials, including Commander Desi Bouterse and Frank Leeflang, the Minister of Internal Affairs and Justice, that the Guayanese population was responsible for the rise in crime and drug-dealing in the country. The Government maintained that the nearly 30,000 undocumented Guayanese aliens represented a threat to national security.

Speaking to a press conference on February 16, 1985, Commander Bouterse, as reported in De Ware-Tijd, explained the operation by arguing that many crimes were committed by the illegal alien population. He further maintained that the illegals were being exploited by their Surinamese employers and that they lived under constant tension because of their illegal status.

Both the Catholic diocesan weekly, Omhoog, and the Moravian newsletter, De Kerbode, criticized the Government actions. As a result, on February 10, 1985, Fr. Sebatiano Mulder, editor of Omhoog was arrested and interrogated. Fr. Mulder had described the mass expulsions as follows:

“Day in and day out, usually in the middle of the night, doors are kicked in, people dragged out of their houses, beaten up and threatened if they do not respond quickly enough, and placed in vehicles, often still in their bed clothes or underwear without being given the chance to dress. Their possessions are ransacked, and left behind to be looted if the arrestors themselves do not help themselves to the goods left behind.”

In its observations on the preliminary report of the IACHR, the government stated that the Omhoog article was regarded as insulting to the Government of Suriname. The Government then quoted part of Father Mulder’s article as follows: “…we may state that the Surinamese Government itself creates illegals. Meanwhile, Operation Clean Sweep is causing great shame to our country abroad. The ‘Country of hospitality and laughter’ as we were praised until recently, is already being compared to the Uganda of Idi Amin, and even to Nazi Germany as it agitated against the Jews.”

The Government then added: “Father Mulder was sent home immediately after he had been questioned. Some time later he was notified that, although he had committed a criminal offense, no prosecution would be instituted on the basis of the legal principle of expediency.”

During the deportation operation, the Commission received numerous complaints about the treatment of the deportees. The Guyanese affected by this process had resided in Suriname for upwards of seven years. In the process of deportation, their families were often split up, sending the husband to Guyana while the wife and children remained in Suriname. In some cases, children were left behind after their parents were deported. Many, if not most of the deportees lost many or all of their belongings, their savings and their money in the Central Bank.

The deportees were sometimes only given 15 minutes to pack, dress and prepare for the two-day journey over land and by boat to Springlands. Furthermore, due to the large number of people deported and the limited number of boats available in Nickerie, many people had to wait two or three days in places without proper sanitary and sleeping facilities before crossing to Guyana. In the case of those detained at Fort Zeelandia, church officials were prohibited from visiting them.

In addition the Commission has received from church sources reports of rapes of Guayanese women and the deaths of several children. Nevertheless, to date we have been unable to independently verify these claims.

The Commission received confidential information that Deputy Commander Sgt. Major Marcel Zeeuw of the Military Police had been put in charge of the operation. After the Christian Council of Churches of Suriname complained of maltreatment to the military authorities, these complaints were given to the Government’s Human Rights Commission. In addition, the Attorney General appointed an investigator to examine the situation in Nickerie although reportedly he did not go for fear of the military stopping him.

In its observations to the preliminary report of the IACHR, the Government noted inter alia: “The operation partially got out of hand and, unfortunately, there were certain cases in which the proceedings were in contravention of the general principles of human rights.”

The Commission is sensitive to the sovereign right of a nation to regulate its own borders and migration to its territory. However, the numerous denunciations of this operation reveal that the Government of Suriname has violated the standards of international law which prohibit the mass expulsion of aliens.


E. Special Considerations: Terrorist Attacks on the Surinamese Exile
Community

The Commission takes special note of the numerous and serious allegations made by Surinamese citizens both in Holland and Suriname that the Government of Suriname, through its Consulate at the Hague and through its agents in the emigrant community, have threatened members of the refugee community with reprisals against their relatives remaining in the country if their anti-government activities didn’t cease.

In this regard, the special commission that visited Holland received one report of the arrest in November 1984 in Suriname of several relatives of an anti-government activist. These family members, the IACHR was told, were not involved in political actions within the country. They were freed after several days in prison.

The Commission also expresses its concern over the assertions made by several sources, who requested anonymity, that some 20-25 persons are paid by the Surinamese Consulate in Holland to impede, interrupt and harass the opponents of the regime who currently reside there. In the past, pro-government groups such as the League of Surinamese Patriots and the Union for People’s Democratic Suriname have threatened opposition groups. Several sources independent of one another told the Commission that since march 1984 this activity has escalated into cases of arson and even murder.

A group of Surinamese citizens who take part in the monthly commemorations in front of the Consulate of those murdered in December 1982 have been threatened by government agents. In the past the group has occupied the Consulate as well as stolen documents from the building, practices which the IACHR does not condone.

More importantly, the Council for the Liberation of Suriname, a non-violent opposition group headed by former President Chin-A-Sen, has informed the IACHR that on occasion the Dutch authorities have warned them of Government plans to assassinate them. During march 1984, a series of fires were set at the houses and offices of the supporters of the group.

On March 21, 1984, Humphrey Somohardjo, the brother of Paul S. Somohardjo, the founder of the refugee center for Surinamese people in Holland called MAKMUR, was shot six times in the head. The failed assassination attempt was believed to be a case of mistaken identity for his brother, a Council activist.

The Commission has also received complaints about the case of Henri Sayedsingh. Sayedsingh was involved in a thwarted coup d’etat in March 1982 and later in the December 1983 occupation of the Surinamese Embassy in the Hague. On August 7, 1984, his body was found floating in the Amstel Canal in Amsterdam. He had been strangled and then tossed into the water. Subsequently the Government of Suriname denied permission to the family of Mr. Sayedsingh to return the body to Paramaribo for cremation.

On March 7, 1985, two armed men with automatic weapons entered the building in Rijswijk, where the Council of Liberation had its offices. The men ordered a group of Dutch musicians who had been rehearsing in a room next to the office to lie on the floor. They then shot five of the musicians in the head. Two of the musicians were killed instantly; one died while in transit to the hospital and the other two were gravely wounded. According to Dutch authorities, there was no discernible motive for the attack.

Nome of the victims was involved in criminal activities and all were Dutch citizens, none of whom had any links to the Council for the Liberation of Suriname. Subsequently, the Dutch Internal Security Service (BVD) undertook an investigation to determine whether the actions were those of terrorists who mistakenly took the musicians for members of the Surinamese opposition.

The Commission, before adopting any measure on this matter, will await the findings of the Dutch judicial investigation.

 



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