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
Regarding the above-mentioned, please notify us at your earliest
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.
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
From January 12-18 an elaborate program was carried out by the special
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
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
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.
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
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.
The communication media must be allowed true freedom of expression.
A law of political parties should be enacted so that political parties
can be allowed to resume functioning as soon as possible.
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.
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.
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.”