Doc. 10
18 September 1989
Original:  Spanish




          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 Report.


          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 subsequently released.


          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 investigated.


          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 years.


          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.


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