SECOND REPORT ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN SURINAME
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.
appropriate provision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is Article
12, which states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the
borders of each State.
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:
Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that
territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his
Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.
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.
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
applicable provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights are as follows:
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.
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.
Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.
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
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own
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
No one shall be subject to arbitrary interference with his privacy,
family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor or reputation.
Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
Special Considerations: Terrorist Attacks on the Surinamese Exile