SECOND REPORT ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN SURINAME
This report is a follow-up on the study published in October 1983 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. That work entitled, A Report on the Human Rights Situation in Suriname, was based in considerable measure on the events of December 8-9 of 1982 and the subsequent on-site visit conducted by the Inter-American Commission during the period June 20-24 of 1983.
Since its first report on Suriname two years ago the Commission has continued to monitor the human rights situation in that country, as it does in all members States of the Organization of American States.
The standard used by the Commission with regard to Suriname for defining applicable human rights is the American Declaration of the Rights Duties of Man, as the Government of Suriname has yet to ratify the American Convention on Human Rights, known as the Pact of San José. Suriname has, however, ratified the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations.
It was with satisfaction that the Commission received an invitation from the Government of Suriname dated August 1, 1984, to conduct another on-site visit in that country. The text of the invitation follows:
On behalf of the Suriname Government, I have the honor to transmit an invitation to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for a visit to Suriname, if convenient in the second half of September 1984.
As for the request in your letter of June 15. 1984, regarding a report on the progress in the field of Human Rights since the recommendations of the OAS General Assembly AG/RES.666(XIII-O/83) of 18 November 1983, the Surinamese Government kindly requests postponement of the deadline to the middle of October 1984.
Regarding the above-mentioned, please notify us at your earliest convenience.
Please accept, Sir, the assurances of my highest consideration.
In a response dated August 9, 1984, the Executive Secretariat accepted the invitation on behalf of the Commission. It reads:
In the absence of the Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your note dated August 1, 1984, your Ref. No. 1547, in which Your Excellency’s Government invites the Commission to visit Suriname during the second half of September 1984.
Pursuant to instructions from the Chairman of the Commission we are pleased to accept this invitation. The Commission, however, will be holding its 63rd Meeting at the end of September, and in addition will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary at that time. We propose that the visit take place directly after the Commission’s 63rd Meeting, namely to begin on October 8th, et seq. Please advise us if this substitution of dates is acceptable to Your Excellency’s Government.
Regarding the request for postponement until mid-October of the submission of Your Excellency’s Government report on the progress in the field of human rights since November 18, 1983, please be advised that whereas we wish to facilitate in every way possible the preparation of such reports, we cannot, however, guarantee that this information will be included in the Commission’s Annual Report if it is submitted in mid-October, since the Commission must prepare its Annual Report during its forthcoming session.
In a subsequent communication dated September 26, 1984 the Commission suggested that the visit be conducted from January 12-17 of 1985 and this proposal was agreed upon in a note from Suriname’s Ambassador Donald McLeod, dated October 24, 1984. The texts of those notes follow:
September 26, 1984
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, now meeting in its 63rd regular session in Washington, D.C., has taken the occasion to consider the kind invitation of Your Excellency’s Government dated August 1, 1984, to the effect that the IACHR visit the Republic of Suriname to conduct an on-site human rights investigation.
Taking into account the material and logistical preparations necessary to ensure a fruitful visit to Your Excellency’s country, the Commission respectfully proposes that the mission take place from January 12-17 of 1985. A special commission composed of three members of the IACHR has been designated to visit Suriname on that occasion to be accompanied by three members of the Secretariat and an interpreter.
Before the actual in situ visit, we respectfully request that a member of the Commission’s Secretariat be allowed to visit Suriname, probably in early December, to make the necessary logistical arrangements and to schedule meetings with both spokesmen for the Government as well as private individuals interested in communicating with the Commission during its visit.
Trusting that these requests meet with the approval of the Government of Your Excellency, I wish to reiterate, Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.
October 24, 1984
Pursuant to your letter dated August 9, 1984 and telephone conversations with David Padilla I have the honor to transmit to you that the Government of Suriname is in agreement with the dates of January 12-17, 1985 for the in situ visit of a delegation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
The dates for the preliminary visit by Mr. Padilla and an interpreter will not be suitable for the Suriname authorities since many of them will be out of the country at that time.
The Suriname Government proposes the dates of December 3-7, 1984, for Mr. Padilla’s visit, whereas there will be the possibility of contact with the Prime Minister and his delegation at the occasion of the 14th General Assembly of the Organization of American States, from 12/17 November in Brasilia.
Please accept the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.
Because of the impeding visit to Suriname, the Commission decided to issue no report on the human rights situation in that country during the OAS General Assembly held in Brasilia in November of last year.
David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary of the IACHR, made a preliminary visit to Suriname from December 3-7, 1984, as had been previously agreed to by the Government, to make the logistical preparations necessary for the Commission’s visit and to devise a work program of meetings with Government officials and private organizations and individuals in country, that would assure the most efficient use of the Commission’s time during the in loco mission.
In conducting the on-site visit to Suriname, it should be noted that the Commission was greatly assisted by the National Committee on Human Rights and Information chaired by Dr. Ishmed Philip Akrum and assisted by Dr. Loemban Tobing-Klein and Ambassador E.R. Nahar.
From January 8-10 of 1985 a special commission of the IACHR held hearings at the Hotel Krasnapolsky in Amsterdam, Netherlands to hear testimony of persons claiming that their human rights had been violated by the Government of Suriname since the Commission published its earlier report.
Heading the special commission to Holland was Lic. César Sepulveda, Chairman of the Commission. Dr. Luis Siles Salinas, Vice-Chairman of the IACHR was the other member the special commission. The special commission was assisted by David Padilla and claudio Grossman, who served as interpreter and legal advisor.
The special commission in Holland spent two days taking testimony from various victims of human rights violations at the Hotel Krasnapolsky in Amsterdam.
On January 11, 1985 Messrs. Siles, Padilla and Grossman travelled to Paramaribo, Suriname where they were met on the following day by Bruce McColm, member of the Commission, and Ernst Brea and diana Decker from the staff of the Executive Secretariat. Dr. Siles was head of mission in Suriname. Subsequently the team was joined by Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño, Executive Secretary of the Commission.
On the eve of the special commission’s arrival in Suriname a press communique was published in the local media announcing the purpose of the mission.
From January 12-18 an elaborate program was carried out by the special commission.
The special commission met with the acting Prime Minister E.L. Tjon Kie Sim (in the absence of Prime Minister Wim Udenhout, who was abroad at the time), and the acting President of the Republic, L.F. Ramdat Misier, the acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Mr. Oosterling, and the following Cabinet Ministers: the Minister of Labor, Mr. Siegfried Gilds, the Minister of Justice, Mr. Frank J. Leeflang, and the Minister of Army and Police, Mr. W.P. Maynard. The special commission also met with the newly constituted National Assembly, the Attorney General, Mr. Reeder, as well as the highest ranking military authorities, including a lengthy visit with Lt. Col. Bouterse, the Commander in Chief of the Armed forces.
The special commission also visited the military installations and prisons at Fort Zeelandia, Santo Boma and Membre Boekoe Kazerne.
Likewise, the special commission traveled to the interior of the country by small plane, visiting a bush negro community called Driattabeje and an Amerindian village known as Tepoe. In addition, the special commission visitied a number of special projects funded by the Government such as a day care center a leprosarium and a home for the elderly.
The special commission dedicated at least half its hours to private visits with religious, political, labor, press, university and professional group leaders. It also received a number of private citizens who wished to present complaints of human rights violations in the country.
It is worth noting that notwithstanding the number of witnesses who came forward to speak to the special commission, a significant number of important persons invited by the Commission either declined the invitation or simply never appeared. These included two former prime ministers, Messrs. Aaron and Lachman, the leaders of the Hindu and Moslem religious communities, respectively.
Fred Derby, the head of the C-47 trade union confederation, and Mr. Van Russell, the head of De Moederbond, another major labor confederation were unable to meet with the special commission but sent representatives in their stead.
During its recent stay in Suriname the special commission received widespread though cautious, attention in the national media.
The special commission concluded its work in Suriname on January 18 with a press conference and the issuance of a press communique.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held its 64th Regular Meeting on March 4-7, 1985, at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., where the special commission that had visited Suriname earlier delivered its interim findings. Based on those deliberations the Chairman of the AICHR, Lic. Supúlveda, addressed the following letter and preliminary recommendations to the Government of Suriname.
March 8, 1985
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, sitting in its 64th Period of Sessions, has received a preliminary report from its special sub-commission that visited Your Excellency’s country in January, 1985.
Based on that preliminary assessment the Commission has resolved to prepare a repot on the human rights situation in Your Excellency’s country as a follow-up to its 1983 Report. A confidential draft of the new report will of course be submitted to Your Excellency’s Government in due course for its observations, in keeping with the Commission’s Rules of Procedure.
In the meantime, however, the Commission believes that it would be useful both for your Excellency’s Government, as well as the cause of human rights, to provide you herewith on a confidential basis its preliminary recommendations with the hope that they can be implemented before a final report is published.
Since the Commission will meet again in Washington, D.C. in June of this year whereupon it will once again consider the human rights situation in Your Excellency’s country, and more specifically, elaborate its draft report, it is essential that Your Excellency’s Government respond to the attached recommendations by the end of the month of May at the latest so that these steps may be reflected in that draft.
The Commission has also learned with appreciation of the commitments made by President Ramdat Misier and Commander Bouterse to ratify the American Convention on Human Rights and recognize the competence and jurisdiction of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Commission wishes to renew its offer to assist the Government of Suriname in any way it deems useful to facilitate the prompt ratification of this important international treaty.
Accept Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.
1. The state of emergency that has been in place in Suriname for the past five years should be lifted in its totality as soon as possible. The military police’s function should be limited exclusively to military matters.
2. Decree laws governing arrests, searches and seizures, and incommunicado detentions should be revised to make them conform to standards contained in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
3. The communication media must be allowed true freedom of expression.
4. A law of political parties should be enacted so that political parties can be allowed to resume functioning as soon as possible.
5. A thorough investigation should be conducted of allegations of human rights abuses particularly those related to the right to life and the right to physical integrity, in order to establish responsibility for these acts and punish their authors according to law.
6. To assure the broadest participation in the process of restoring representative democracy in Suriname the Government of Suriname should take the necessary steps to make possible the participation of all Surinamese citizens in this process including those currently living abroad.
In its observations to the report on the Human Rights Situation in Suriname dated September 19, 1985, approved by the Commission in its 65th Regular Meeting, the Government gave the following written assurances regarding the Commission’s preliminary recommendations as formulated on March 8, 1985:
“It is self-evident that the recommendations in that letter have our full attention and that rep0lies and promises made by the authorities during the in-situ visit to our country in January last shall remain in force. Preparations for Suriname to become party to the Pact of San José of 1969 are in progress, as are preparations to adopt our legislation (among which Art. 21 of the Basic Rights and Obligations of the Surinamese People) to international standards. We expect that the results of these efforts can be presented to the OAS before the next General Meeting. Moreover, with the formation of a permanent constitutional committee within the National Assembly, a solid foundation has been laid for full participation of the Surinamese people in all sections of the community and for the realization of a law on political parties.”