REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION
Starting in 1983, the Commission has conducted four on-site
investigations in Suriname and based on these it has prepared two special
reports on the human rights situation in that country. The first on-site
investigation was carried out from 20-24 June 1983, and resulted in the
“Report on the Human Rights in Suriname”, dated October 5, 1983. That report
concluded that high Government authorities were responsible for the deaths of
fifteen prominent Surinamese citizens.
Following a second on-site visit conducted from 12-17 January 1985, the
Commission approved its “Second Report on the Human Rights Situation in
Suriname”, dated October 2, 1985. Thereafter, from 6-8 October 1987, the
Commission carried out its third on-site investigation.
Most recently, from 13-19 December 1988, the Commission conducted its
fourth on-site inspection.
A description of this mission can be found in Chapter II of this Annual
The principal purpose of this latest visit was to investigate a number of
complaints filed with the Commission prior to the inauguration of the new
civilian government in January, 1988. Several of these cases are the subject of
resolutions by the Commission and can be found in Chapter III of this report.
While on the whole the number of human rights violations reported in
Suriname has diminished substantially, in the past year, the Commission wishes
to point to two cases of arbitrary detention which occurred in December, 1988.
One was the arrest on December 10th of the human rights leader,
Stanley Rensch. He was later released on December 21st. The other
case involved Meibrada Asongie who was arrested at the same time and
Of greatest concern is the denunciation brought on behalf of Asok
Gangaram Panday. Mr. Panday was detained at the airport upon his voluntary
return to Suriname from the Netherlands. While in military police custody at the
airport, Mr. Panday, according to government investigators, committed suicide by
hanging. The complaints claim he was murdered. The case is still being
Since the Commission's visit in December of last year, two significant
matters in terms of human rights have occurred in Suriname.
The first was the unanimous adoption of the Amnesty Act by the National
Assembly of Suriname. The thrust of this law is to retroactively amnesty human
rights violators in the military police and army.
The second matter has to do with the progress of talks with the thousands
of Maroons who remain refugees in St. Laurent, French Guiana, as well as the
rebel factions known as the Jungle Commando.
In 1988 a tripartite Commission consisting of the French Government, the
Government of Suriname, and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees was
established. Early this year a delegation of the Surinamese National Assembly,
headed by its President, Mr. J. Lachmon, visited the refugee camp at St. Laurent
and began to lay the groundwork for an agreement which would lead to the
peaceful return of the refugees. In addition, talks were held with the
leadership of the Jungle Commando to arrive at an agreement of peace.
A cease fire went into effect in early June but was marred by at least
one incident of hostilities later that month. By mid-June, however, President
Shankar had designated a high level delegation to negotiate a peaceful
settlement with the Jungle Commando. The group consisted of Mr. J. Lachmond, as
well as Justice Minister, Mr. Jules Ajodhia; Education Minister, Mr. Ronald
Venetiaan; and, Minister of Social Affairs, Mr. Willy Soemita.
On July 21st the Agreement of Kourou was signed by rebel
leader, Ronnie Brunswijk, and duly authorized representatives of President
Snankar. Both sides reported feelings of optimism. The agreement called for the
permanent cessation of hostilities, security guarantees, and the repatriation of
the refugees in French Guiana.
However, on July 25th, the Commander of the Army, Lt. Col.
Desi Bouterse, in a speech delivered at his military headquarters and
transmitted on Surinamese radio, denounced the Kourou Accord as “treason”
and “unconstitutional”, particularly the arrangement whereby the members of
the Jungle Commando would be, in effect, deputized as police officers
responsible for security in designated areas of the country inhabited primarily
by Maroons. This position was supported by the Military Authority, a
constitutional power, handpicked by the strongman, Lt. Col. Bouterse.
The Commission is concerned that this type of interference with the
lawful functioning of the executive and legislative branches of the duly elected
civilian Government threatens to destabilize representative democracy in
Suriname and prolong the civil strife that that country has suffered in recent
Overall the human rights situation in Suriname presents a mixed picture.
On one hand the number of complaints under the democratically elected Government
is significantly down. On the other hand, it is clear that the Army and Military
Police under Lt. Col. Bouterse still hold great power and from time to time can
and do violate human rights when expedient. Candid discussions with high ranking
authorities leave no doubt that democracy in Suriname is fragile at best. The
Commission believes it has a duty to continue to observe and report upon the
human rights situation in that country.