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).




In light of the information and analyses presented in this Report, the Commission is of the view that, in spite of modest progress that has been achieved, a number of fundamental human rights established in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man continue to be violated by the Government of Suriname.

1. The people of Suriname continue to be deprived of their political rights. The authorities have embarked on a new political project with the installation of a National Assembly, whose ostensible purpose is to write a constitution and establish the transition to democratic rule within 27 months. The Assembly is composed of unelected representatives of the armed forces, trade unions and a part of the private sector. These groups have informed the Commission that their objective is to reestablish respect for internationally recognized human rights which include the right of the citizens of Suriname to elect and change their political leaders through elections which are free and fair and contested by parties or groups of differing political viewpoints.

The Commission will continue to monitor this process of transition and would favorably view the establishment of those measures which would permit true enjoyment of human rights in Suriname. However, the Commission must point out that to date the people of Suriname have not had the opportunity to participate in this transition process, which will determine the future political course of their nation. In other words the people of Suriname have had no direct participation in the consideration of the ways, means and nature of the political system to be established. Similarly there has been no opportunity for all sectors of society to openly participate in the national debate over the transition process itself.

The situation has been exacerbated by the continuing state of emergency in Suriname, which has gravely limited the exercise of those human rights recognized in the American Declaration, especially political rights. This is particularly relevant because the Decree which regulates the state of emergency permits, inter alia, the derogation of all existing rights including the right to life, in violation of the standards of International Law recognized by the Government of Suriname. A positive measure toward the reestablishment of the rule of law would be the derogation of the state of emergency.

2. With respect to the right to life, the Government of Suriname, despite the recommendation of the Commission, has failed to conduct an investigation of the tragic events of December 1982 and to condemn those responsible. This has left the impression that those who violate essential rights, most importantly the right to life, enjoy impunity. Moreover, there have been subsequent complaints of the right to life has been violated without investigations by the Government.

3. Likewise, the Commission has received complaints concerning the harassment, intimidation and, in some cases, the assassination of political opponents to the Government living abroad.

4. Regarding due process, the Commission has been able to establish that this right is no respected in those cases which the Government believes to be matters of national security. The military police broadly interpret their authority so as to deny those basic protections essential to due process. These include the presumption of innocence, right to legal counsel, adequate conditions necessary to prepare one´s legal defense, the legality of the arrest, as well as free access to the courts of law.

The Commission notes the private efforts of Lachmipersad Frederik Ramdat Misier, the President of Suriname, on behalf of human rights. Although his actions have led to positive results in certain cases, the Commission must note that the guarantee of due process depends on the formal and substantive adherence to the basic prerequisites as outlined above.

The Government’s creation of the Commission on Human Rights and Information must also be viewed in this light. Without ignoring the potential contribution this Commission might make and the assistance it provided the special commission, it must be pointed out that its members are appointed by the same authorities whose actions it is to monitor. Consequently, it operates under serious limitations, particularly in cases concerning national security.

5. The Commission concludes that the right to personal integrity is frequently violated in cases involving national security. This practice consists of arbitrary detentions by the military police, followed by beatings and deprivation of food, sleep and shelter for varying lengths of time. Besides producing serious physical and psychological consequences for the victim, it generates a climate of fear and intimidation in the population at large. This situation is even more serious given the lack of access to the detainee by members of this family and lawyers, especially during the first weeks of detention. This is a chronic practice.

6. The exercise of the freedom of transit, including the right to enter and leave the national territory, is subject to serious restrictions in Suriname. The Commission was able to establish the Government’s refusal to provide passports to its opponents living abroad and in general the taking of reprisals against this group as a whole.

In addition, the Commission notes its grave concern over the mass expulsion of Guyanese nationals from Suriname. The Commission concludes that this operation was conducted in a brutal and callous fashion. The expulsion has been the object of considerable international concern and violates international norms concerning the proper treatment of aliens within a state’s national territory.

7. Freedom of association is narrowly restricted in Suriname. Political parties continue to be outlawed. Only the February 25th Movement, established by the highest military authorities of the country, is allowed to function as a political party, which gives rise to the fear that there could emerge a single-party state. Nevertheless, the Commission has determined that labor and business organizations are functioning in the country.

8. The situation concerning the freedom of thought and expression has changed since the previous visit to Suriname. The Government has allowed the re-opening of newspapers and some radio stations. However, it cannot be concluded that free thought and expression are respected in the country. The authorities have not permitted the re-establishment of all the media that were closed in 1982. Moreover, the media authorized to operate at present are subject to prior censorship and are subject to procedures which would allow their closing by administrative fiat, without any legal recourse.

9. Concerning the economic, social and cultural rights in the country, the Commission notes that these will not be fully realizable until political rights and civil liberties are restores. This is all the more important in Suriname given that Government programs aimed at improving the economic, social and cultural situation have been profoundly affected by the lack of foreign aid as a consequence of human rights violations committed by the Government.

10. Finally, the Commission reiterates the preliminary recommendations contained on page 6 of this Report. Based on the findings established in this study, the Commission considers it essential that the Government of Suriname establish the institutional means that it deems appropriate to assure the achievement of a political consensus among all national political sectors of the Surinamese population so as to restore in the shortest possible time a system of representative democracy, which as the IACHR has stated on repeated occasions, is the surest guarantee of the respect for all the human rights contained in the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man.


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