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TITLE:  SURINAME HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                            
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Consolidation of democratic constitutional government continued 
slowly and fitfully following installation of a freely elected 
Parliament and the inauguration of a democratically elected 
President in 1991.  The Government of President Ronald 
Venetiaan is composed of ministers drawn from a four-party 
coalition which holds the majority of seats in the multiparty 
National Assembly.  In May the Government successfully 
installed a military commander of its own choosing to replace 
military strongman Desi Bouterse, who resigned as military 
commander in late 1992, and named its own choices as 
subordinate commanders.

The Government thus made a significant advance in exercising 
control over the country's military establishment, which, under 
Bouterse's leadership, had overthrown civilian governments 
twice in 10 years (most recently in December 1990).  Cooperation
between the military police and the civilian police improved 
after the installation of the new military commanders.  The 
military police continued to perform the immigration function 
at the country's points of entry.

Suriname's economy is largely agricultural but also depends 
heavily upon export revenues from the key bauxite sector.  Real 
gross domestic product contracted as the economy suffered from 
rapid inflation, foreign exchange shortages, and a flourishing 
black market.  The Netherlands limited its aid flows because 
the Government made little progress in implementing the 
economic structural adjustment program adopted in late 1992.

The number of new allegations of human rights abuses remained 
low.  The principal problems included police mistreatment of 
detainees, abuse of prisoners, overcrowding of prisons and 
jails, intimidation of the press, violence against women, and 
marginalization of indigenous people.  The Government failed to 
call to account human rights abusers from previous regimes.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings in 1993.  There 
were allegations, however, that prison guards beat an escaped 
prisoner to death after he was recaptured.  The nongovernmental 
human rights group Moiwana '86 took up this case, and the 
Government investigated possible misconduct on the part of the 
prison guards or police.  The Government had not announced any 
results of the inquiry by year's end.

The Government reluctantly investigated reports of the finding 
of the remains of several people killed during the 1986-91 
insurgencies in the interior.  No results of the investigation 
were released, and the Government intimated that the claim was 
part of an effort by a former insurgent group to stir up 
trouble.  Moiwana '86 continued to pursue the court case it 
instituted in 1992, challenging the validity of the law that 
conferred amnesty on members of the military and the insurgents 
for crimes (except crimes against humanity) committed since 
1985, but no final judgment was rendered.  

The Government took no action to investigate past human rights 
violations, such as the 1982 killing by the military regime of 
15 civic leaders or the 1986 massacre of civilians at the 
village of Moiwana.  On September 10, the Inter-American Court 
of Human Rights rendered a judgment concerning compensation to 
be paid to the survivors of seven Maroons (descendants of 
escaped slaves who fled into the interior to avoid recapture) 
killed near the village of Pokigron in 1987, for which the 
Government had admitted responsibility in 1991.  The trustees 
appointed by the Court to oversee payment of compensation plan 
to begin working out details of implementation with the 
Government in early 1994.  The Court did not render a decision 
in a second case arising from the killing several years ago of 
a Surinamese citizen who had recently returned from the 

     b.  Disappearance

During 1993, there were no new allegations of the disappearance 
of Surinamese citizens, but the Government took no action to 
investigate earlier allegations of disappearances occurring 
under previous regimes.  Three Colombian nationals believed to 
be involved in narcotics trafficking disappeared in 1993.  The 
police are still investigating the incident.  However, the 
authorities secured convictions of two soldiers involved in a 
case thought to be related to the disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits inhuman treatment or punishment, but 
human rights monitors continued to express concern about 
official mistreatment of prisoners.  In addition to the death 
described above, it was also alleged that five other recaptured 
prisoners were beaten, with varying degrees of severity, by 
prison guards.  One knowledgeable observer stated that prison 
guards beat inmates with some frequency.  No results of the 
Government's inquiry into charges that guards beat several 
recaptured convicts had been released by year's end.

Severe jail overcrowding continued to be a serious problem.  At 
police stations where suspects are held pending trial, cells 
contained as many as four times the number of detainees they 
were designed for and were very unsanitary.  Female prisoners 
are in the charge of male police officers, and a knowledgeable 
observer said instances of sexual harrassment are not uncommon.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

According to Surinamese law, a person suspected of committing a 
crime for which the sentence is longer than 4 years may be 
detained by the police for investigation for up to 14 days.  
Within the 14-day period, the accused must be brought before a 
prosecutor to be formally charged.  If additional time is 
needed for investigating the charge, a prosecutor may authorize 
the police to detain the suspect for 30 days more.  Upon the 
expiration of the initial 44 days, a "Judge of Instruction" may 
authorize the police to hold the suspect for up to 120 
additional days, in 30-day increments (for a total of 164 
days), before the case is tried.  The Judge of Instruction has 
the power to authorize release on bail, but that power is 
rarely, if ever, used.  There were no reports of detentions in 
contravention of these standards in 1993.

Pretrial detainees constituted 38.5 percent of the total prison 
and jail population of 1,007.  Of those held in police custody, 
18.2 percent had already been convicted.  Requiring the police 
to maintain custody of convicted prisoners increases the 
overcrowding in their facilities.

The military police observed the requirement to hand over to 
the civil police civilians arrested for committing a crime in 
their presence.  The military police continued to perform the 
immigration function at the country's borders and airports but 
no longer investigated civilian crimes.

The convictions of four soldiers for setting fire to a 
television station and the conviction of a consular officer who 
claimed links to the former military leadership demonstrated 
progress in the civilian Government's efforts to consolidate 
its control of the military and to hold all citizens responsible
for criminal conduct regardless of their position.  The 
Government's success on January 3, 1994, in arresting a former 
military police commander wanted on drug charges continued the 

Exile is not used as a means of political control.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary 
and the right to a fair public trial in which defendants have 
the right to counsel, the effectiveness of the civilian and 
military courts is limited.  The court system follows the Dutch 
model.  Lawyers in private practice are assigned to defend 
prisoners and paid from public funds.  An accused may be held 
for up to 164 days before trial, but periodic reviews of the 
case are required at progressively higher levels of authority.  
A detainee who is not tried within the 164-day period must be 
freed.  Trials are before a single judge, with right of 
appeal.  There were difficulties within the public prosecutor's 
office, with two experienced prosecutors departing as the 
result of disputes with the office's chief.  There is little 
firm evidence of the extent to which corruption has affected 
the court system, but the entire criminal justice system was 
subjected to severe strain when the military was ascendant and 
prominent members were involved in or afforded protection to 
drug traffickers.

Military personnel are generally not subject to civilian 
criminal law.  A soldier who commits a crime immediately comes 
under military jurisdiction.  Military prosecutions are 
directed by an officer on the public prosecutor's staff who is 
assigned that function.  Military trials take place in separate 
courts before a judge and two military personnel.  The military 
courts follow the same rules of procedure as the civil courts.  
There is no appeal from the military to the civil system.  The 
military police are responsible for all investigations 
involving military personnel.

Since the change of military command in May, coordination 
between the military police and the civil police improved, and 
there were no further instances of military interference in 
civilian police investigations.  The pervasive climate of fear 
and intimidation that previously prevented cases involving 
military personnel or drug traffickers from being tried began 
to dissipate, and prospects for the impartial administration of 
justice began to improve.

There were no known political prisoners held during the year.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Constitution provides for the right to privacy.  Warrants, 
issued not by judges but by quasi-judicial officers who 
supervise criminal investigations, are required for searches 
and are obtained in the great majority of investigations.  As 
the new military commander consolidated his control of the 
armed forces, he curbed invasions of privacy by the military 
such as illegal monitoring of telephone calls, monitoring of 
the movements of human rights activists, and threatening 
government officials, policemen, politicians, human rights 
workers, and journalists.  Although some of the individuals 
involved in these activities attempted to continue them on 
occasion, they apparently were not acting with military 

In October there was a series of grenade attacks on homes and 
businesses of several persons prominently associated with the 
Hindustani political party which belongs to the ruling 
coalition.  Although it was possible the attacks were the 
result of intraparty quarrels or part of a criminal extortion 
attempt, they were most likely the work of forces associated 
with the former military leadership.  The police investigation 
of the incidents, however, was not successful in identifying 
the principal perpetrators.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and expression 
of opinion through the printed press or other media.  The 
parliamentary and extraparliamentary opposition criticizes the 
Government freely.

Suriname's two daily newspapers and most of its radio stations 
are privately owned.  Its two television stations and one of 
the country's radio stations are publicly owned.  After the 
change of military command, journalists felt that, although 
government officials might criticize them for their reporting, 
the Government would not use force against them.  However, many 
members of the media continued to believe that elements 
associated with the former military leadership would use force 
against them and therefore avoided filing reports they thought 
the former military leaders would find objectionable. 
The leading human rights organization charged in November that 
the Government prevented the broadcast of two radio programs 
during the year.  One of the journalists involved said the 
Government warned him about broadcasting erroneous information 
but later withdrew the accusation.

In May a television station which strongly supported the 
Government in a confrontation with the military leadership over 
the naming of the new military commander was attacked and 
burned in an apparent attempt to intimidate the media.  The 
Government and citizenry quickly came to the support of the 
station, which was able to resume its broadcasts.  Four current 
or former members of the military, at least one of whom was a 
bodyguard of former military strongman Desi Bouterse, were 
convicted and sentenced to prison for the attack.

The Government did not attempt to interfere with publications 
nor academic freedom.  The Guyanese author of a work seized in 
1992 by Surinamese authorities on the grounds that it 
blasphemed the Hindu religion continued to seek compensation in 
the Surinamese courts.  In April a judge declined to issue a 
summary judgment in his favor.  No final judgment had been 
issued by year's end.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The right to assemble peacefully and to form associations for 
nonviolent purposes is protected constitutionally, and these 
rights are respected in practice.  Official registration of 
associations is required in many instances and is generally 
granted.  Political and other meetings take place unhindered.  
Most large public meetings require permits, which are routinely 

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is provided for by the Constitution and is 
respected in practice.  There is no state religion.  Foreign 
clergy are allowed to minister to both local and expatriate 
congregations, and missionaries enter the country freely to 
proselytize.  Religious groups maintain international contacts, 
freely organize trips abroad, and publish periodicals.  
Adherence to a particular faith is neither a bar to, nor a 
requirement for, entry into political, economic, or social 

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Surinamers may change their residences and workplaces freely 
and travel abroad as they wish.  Political dissidents who 
emigrated to the Netherlands and elsewhere during the years of 
military rule are welcome to return.  Some, but not many, of 
them have chosen to do so.  Citizenship is not revoked for 
political reasons.

The large majority of refugees who fled into French Guiana 
during the insurgency in the interior have now returned to 
Suriname, and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees closed 
its office in Paramaribo.  Suriname continued to provide refuge 
to a small number of Haitian migrants.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The Constitution provides for this right, but in the past the 
military prevented its effective exercise.  The Constitution 
stipulates that power and authority rest with the people and 
provides for the right to change the government peacefully 
through the direct election by secret ballot of a National 
Assembly of 51 members every 5 years.  The National Assembly 
then elects a President by a two-thirds vote.  If the 
legislature is unable to do so, as was the case after the last 
election in 1991, the Constitution provides that a National 
People's Assembly comprising members of Parliament and regional 
and local officials shall elect the President.  Although the 
Surinamese military has twice handed over power to elected 
civilian governments following coups, one elected government 
has not yet succeeded another in accordance with constitutional 

The Constitution provides for the existence of political 
parties, and eight parties or political coalitions are 
represented in the National Assembly.  Although the 
Constitution proscribes discrimination on the grounds of birth, 
sex, race, language, or religious origin, there are several 
factors that limit the participation of Maroons and Amerindians 
in the political process.  Most of the country's political 
activity takes place in the capital and a narrow belt running 
east and west of it along the coast.  The Maroons and 
Amerindians are concentrated in remote areas and therefore have 
limited influence in the political process.  Most Surinamese 
political parties are ethnically based.  There is a small 
Maroon political party which holds three seats in the National 
Assembly and belongs to an opposition coalition.  There are no 
Amerindian political parties.  There are four Maroons, one 
Amerindian, and three women in the National Assembly.  There 
are no Maroons, Amerindians, or women in the Cabinet.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Nongovernmental human rights organizations operated freely in 
Suriname.  After the change of military command, the Government 
and the military participated in the dedication of a memorial 
to victims of human rights abuses since the first military coup 
in 1980.  Several private participants called for full 
investigation of the abuses.  Nethertheless, the Government 
initiated no investigations of possible human rights abuses 
during earlier regimes other than its inquiry into the reported 
finding of a mass grave near the village of Moiwana, noted 
above.  On occasion the Government reacted with disfavor to 
calls for investigations into past possible human rights 

The National Institute of Human Rights, funded by the 
Government but authorized to act independently, is widely 
regarded as inactive and ineffective.  Nonetheless, its 
chairman stated that Cabinet members often implement its 
recommendations.  When the Institute's five members' terms 
expired, the Government extended their tenure indefinitely and 
failed to appoint new members.  

The Government failed to implement several recommendations by 
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that it 
investigate killings during the tenure of the military regime.  
The Government welcomes visits from foreign and international 
human rights groups.  It has not had to deal with any outside 
requests for human rights investigations or charges that it has 
violated human rights.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution and laws do not differentiate among citizens 
on the basis of their ethnic origins, religious affiliations, 
or other cultural differences.  In practice, however, several 
groups within Surinamese society suffer some form of 


Women have a legal right to equal access to education, 
employment, and property.  Nevertheless, social pressures and 
customs inhibit the full exercise of these rights, particularly 
in the areas of marriage and inheritance.  Surinamese law does 
not differentiate between domestic violence and other forms of 
assault, and the Government has not specifically addressed the 
problem of violence against women.  However, violence against 
women is a problem throughout society.  The private foundation 
"Home for Women in Crisis Situations" has been consistently 
oversubscribed by women from all the country's ethnic groups 
and their children.  It expanded its capacity from 7 to 15 
rooms with international and private assistance but was not 
successful in securing government support.


An estimated 50 percent of the population is under the age of 
18, but government efforts to attend to the human rights and 
welfare of children are not highly developed.  About 18 percent 
of the Government's expenditures were for activities that would 
promote the welfare of children.  In the capital, where most of 
the country's population is concentrated, there are some 
orphanages, and a privately funded shelter for sexually-abused 
children was opened in 1993.  Elsewhere, distressed children 
must usually rely on the resources of their extended families.  

     Indigenous People

Amerindians and Maroons are formally able to participate in 
Suriname's political process and society on an equal footing 
with the country's other inhabitants.  In practice, however, 
most of the members of these two groups suffer a number of 
disadvantages and have only limited ability to participate in 
decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and 
natural resources.  Suriname's political life, educational 
opportunities, and jobs are concentrated in the capital and its 
environs, while the majority of Amerindians and Maroons live in 
the interior.

Government services became largely unavailable, and much of the 
infrastructure was destroyed, in the interior during the 
1986-91 insurgencies; progress in reestablishing services and 
rebuilding the infrastructure was very slow.  Although the 
accords ending the insurgencies provided for the appointment of 
a Consultative Council on the Development of the Interior, 
including representatives of the Maroon and Amerindian 
communities, the Government has not yet appointed that council.
Representatives of the Amerindian community complained in 
September that they were not consulted about the grant of a 
large timber concession to an Indonesian company in areas they 
inhabited.  The Government did not respond to Amerindian 
complaints about the timber concession.

     People with Disabilities

In general, Surinamese society has not yet addressed the 
question of people with disabilities.  There are some training 
programs for the blind and others with disabilities.  However, 
there are no laws concerning access for disabled people and no 
provisions for making private or public buildings accessible to 
them.  Neither are there laws mandating that they be given 
equal consideration when seeking jobs or housing.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution protects the right of workers to associate and 
to choose their representatives democratically.  At least 
40 percent of the work force is organized into unions, most of 
which belong to one of the country's six major labor 
federations.  Unions are independent of the Government and play 
an active role in politics.  A small Labor Party, which is 
independent of the labor movement but includes the chairmen of 
two of the most influential labor federations in its 
leadership, is part of the ruling four-party coalition and 
provides three Cabinet members.

There are no restrictions on unions' international activities.  
Several Surinamese labor federations were reaccepted as 
affiliates of international trade union organizations in the 
late 1980's, after having been suspended for collaboration with 
the military regime earlier in the decade.

The Constitution protects the right of nongovernment employees 
to strike.  Civil servants have no such right to strike or 
mount other labor actions, but in practice they are able to do 
so.  Strikes in both the public and private sectors were common 
as workers tried to secure wage gains to protect their earning 
power from rapid inflation.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

These rights are explicitly recognized by the Constitution and 
respected in practice.  Collective bargaining agreements cover 
approximately 50 percent of the labor force.  The law prohibits 
antiunion discrimination by employers, and there are effective 
mechanisms for resolving complaints of such discrimination.  
Employers must have prior permission from the Ministry of Labor 
to fire workers, except when discharging an employee for 
cause.  Dismissals for cause are individually reviewed by the 
Labor Ministry, and if it finds the discharge unjustified, the 
employee must be reinstated.

There are no special economic zones in Suriname.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and 
there were no known instances of it in 1993.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Surinamese law sets the minimum age for employment at 16 years. 
Enforcement of this law by the Ministry of Labor and the police 
is sporadic and only partially effective, however.  Those under 
16 years of age are often employed as street vendors, newspaper 
sellers, and shop assistants.  School attendance is compulsory 
until the age of 12.  However, both in the capital and in the 
country's interior some school-age children do not have access 
to education because of lack of transportation, facilities, or 

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Suriname has no minimum wage legislation.  The Government's 
lowest wage for unskilled laborers will not provide a decent 
living for a worker and family.  Work in excess of 9 hours per 
day or 45 hours per week on a regular basis requires special 
government permission, which is routinely granted.  Such 
overtime work earns premium pay.  One 24-hour rest period, 
usually but not necessarily Sunday, is required per week.

A 10- to 12-member inspectorate of the Occupational Health and 
Safety Division of the Ministry of Labor is responsible for 
enforcing legislated occupational safety and health 
regulations.  There is, however, no law authorizing workers to 
refuse to work in circumstances they deem unsafe.  They must 
appeal to the inspectorate to declare the circumstances 
unsafe.  Resource constraints and lack of trained personnel 
preclude the Division from making regular inspections of 
Surinamese industry.  Accident rates in local industry do not 
appear to be high, and the key bauxite industry has an 
outstanding safety record. 

[end of document]


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