SECOND REPORT ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN SURINAME
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.
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.
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.
Likewise, the Commission has received complaints concerning the
harassment, intimidation and, in some cases, the assassination of political
opponents to the Government living abroad.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.