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TITLE:  SURINAME HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                            SURINAME


After over a decade of predominantly military rule, Suriname 
installed a freely elected Parliament and inaugurated a 
democratically chosen President in 1991.  Since then the 
Government has made fitful progress in consolidating democracy 
and slow but steady progress toward reestablishing civilian 
authority over the military.  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 1992 the Government concluded 
a peace accord with members of insurgent groups which had 
fought a domestic armed conflict between 1986 and 1991.

In 1993 the Government replaced former military strongman 
Desire Bouterse as commander of the armed forces with a new 
commander of its own choosing, and also replaced four 
subordinate commanders.  Since then, cooperation between the 
military and the civilian police improved as respective roles 
were clarified.  Civilian police bear primary responsibility 
for the maintenance of law and order, and they continued to be 
responsible for some human rights abuses.

The market-oriented economy is largely agricultural, but with 
an important bauxite and alumina export sector.  There is a 
high degree of state involvement and regulation; the Government 
and parastatal companies employ over half the working 
population.  For the last several years, depressed world prices 
for bauxite and alumina and the damaging effects of the 
country's domestic armed conflict resulted in high inflation 
and reduced economic growth.

The principal human rights abuses included police mistreatment 
of detainees, abuse of prisoners, overcrowding of jails, 
government intimidation of the press, societal violence against 
women, and marginalization of indigenous people.  The 
Government continued to fail to call to account human rights 
abusers from previous regimes.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial 
killings.  The authorities have taken no action against prison 
guards who allegedly beat a prisoner to death in 1993.

The human rights group 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 between January 1985 and August 1992, but the court 
rendered no final judgment.

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.  The Government failed to abide by a 1993 
judgment rendered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights 
to pay compensation 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, 
although in 1991 the Government admitted responsibility for the 
killings.  The Government did provide funds to set up a 
foundation responsible for disbursing compensation to relatives 
of the victims.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no new allegations of disappearances, but the 
Government took no action to investigate earlier allegations of 
disappearances which occurred under previous regimes.

     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 detainees and prisoners.  Prison 
guards reportedly beat inmates frequently.  The authorities 
arrested a prison warden in September in connection with the 
beating of a prisoner of Dutch nationality, but had not brought 
him to trial by year's end.  The Government has not released 
the results of an inquiry into charges that guards beat several 
recaptured prisoners in 1993.

Severe jail overcrowding continued to be a serious problem.  At 
police stations, cells intended for suspects awaiting trial 
contained as many as four times the number of detainees they 
were designed for and were very unsanitary.  Guards allow 
detainees no exercise and only rarely permit them to leave the 
cells.  Detainees also suffer from inadequate nutrition.  The 
Government began construction of two new facilities to relieve 
the overcrowding.  In some jails, female prisoners are in the 
charge of male police officers, and these officers reportedly 
routinely abuse female prisoners sexually.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

According to the law, police may detain for investigation up to 
14 days a person suspected of committing a crime for which the 
sentence is longer than 4 years.  Within the 14-day period, the 
police must bring the accused before a prosecutor to be 
formally charged.  If additional time is needed to investigate 
the charge, a prosecutor may authorize the police to detain the 
suspect for an additional 30 days.  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.

Pretrial detainees constitute nearly 70 percent of the total 
prison and jail population of 1,510.  Of those held in police 
custody, 15 percent had already been convicted.

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.

While not specifically forbidden by law or the Constitution, 
exile is not practiced 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 courts assign lawyers in 
private practice to defend prisoners and pay them from public 
funds.  The courts must, and in practice do, free a detainee 
who is not tried within the 164-day period.  Trials are before 
a single judge, with the right to appeal.  There is little firm 
evidence of the extent to which corruption affects the court 
system, but the entire criminal justice system was subjected to 
severe strain in previous years when the military controlled 
the Government and prominent members of the judiciary were 
involved with, or afforded protection to, drug traffickers.

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

Since the change in military leadership in 1993, coordination 
between the military police and the civil police has 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.  However, although the Government 
arrested the former military police commander in January on 
drug charges and tried him before a military tribunal, the 
court released him on August 8 due to "lack of evidence."

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

The Constitution provides for the right to privacy.  The law 
requires warrants for searches, which are issued not by judges 
but by quasi-judicial officers who supervise criminal 
investigations.  The police obtain them in the great majority 
of investigations.  The new military command curbed invasions 
of privacy by the military such as the illegal monitoring of 
telephone calls, monitoring the movements of human rights 
advocates, and threatening government officials, policemen, 
politicians, human rights workers, and journalists.  Although 
some persons continued these activities on occasion, the 
military authorities reportedly did not authorize them to do so.

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, and the 
Government generally respects these rights.  The parliamentary 
and extraparliamentary opposition criticize the Government 
freely.  In at least one instance, however, the Government 
acted arbitrarily in response to criticism.  The authorities 
arrested a Dutch journalist of Surinamese descent in May, after 
he charged in a Dutch magazine that members of the Government 
were corrupt.  They detained the journalist in a cell for over 
6 weeks for disturbing the public order but filed no formal 
charges, and then deported him.

The Government's incomplete control over the military allows 
the former military leadership to intimidate members of the 
media into practicing self-censorship and not publishing 
reports they think the military leaders will find objectionable.

Suriname's two daily newspapers and most of its radio stations 
are privately owned.  The two television stations and one of 
the radio stations are publicly owned.  The Government did not 
attempt to interfere with publications or to abridge academic 
freedom.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right to assemble peacefully 
and to form associations for nonviolent purposes, and the 
authorities respect these rights in practice.  The law requires 
official registration of associations and permits for most 
large public meetings, which the authorities routinely issued.  
Political and other meetings take place unhindered.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and the 
authorities respect it in practice.  Foreign clergy are allowed 
to minister to both local and expatriate congregations, and 
missionaries enter the country freely to proselytize.  
Adherence to a particular faith is neither a bar to, nor a 
requirement for, entry into political, economic, or social 
fields.

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

Citizens may change their residences and work places 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.  Few of them have chosen to do so.  
Citizenship is not revoked for political reasons.

Suriname continued to provide refuge to a small number of 
Haitian migrants.  It does not forcibly repatriate refugees.

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.  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 
provisions.  The current Government is still in the process of 
institutionalizing democratic, constitutional rule.

The Constitution stipulates that power and authority rest with 
the people and provides for the right to change the government 
through the direct election by secret ballot of a National 
Assembly of 51 members every 5 years.  The National Assembly 
then elects the President by a two-thirds vote.  If the 
legislature is unable to do so, as was the case after the 1991 
election, the Constitution provides that a national People's 
Assembly comprising Members of Parliament and regional and 
local officials shall elect the President.

The Constitution provides for the existence of political 
parties, and many parties and political coalitions are 
represented in the National Assembly.  Although the 
Constitution proscribes racial or religious discrimination, 
several factors 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 access to, and influence in, the political process.  
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.

There are historical and cultural impediments to equal 
participation by women in leadership positions in government 
and political parties.  In the past, most women expected to 
fulfill the role of housewife and mother, thereby limiting 
opportunities to gain political experience or position.  
Participation by women in politics (and other fields) was 
generally considered inappropriate.  While women have made 
limited gains in attaining political power in recent years, 
political circles remain under the influence of traditional 
groups and women are disadvantaged in seeking high public 
office.

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

Nongovernmental human rights organizations operated freely in 
Suriname.  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' 10-year 
terms expired, President Venetiaan did not appoint new members 
and refused to accept letters of resignation, thus extending 
their tenure indefinitely.

The Government reacted negatively to calls for investigations 
into past possible human rights violations and refused to 
initiate such studies.  It 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 has not had to deal with any 
outside requests for more recent human rights investigations or 
charges that it had 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 society suffer various forms of discrimination.

     Women

Women have a legal right to equal access to education, 
employment, and property.  Nevertheless, social pressures and 
customs inhibit their full exercise of these rights, 
particularly in the areas of marriage and inheritance.  The 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.  According to 
a national women's group, victims reported approximately 
425 cases of violence against women.  It remains a problem at 
all levels of society.

     Children

The Government makes only limited efforts to ensure the human 
rights and 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 opened in 1993.  Elsewhere, distressed children must 
usually rely on the resources of their extended families.  Both 
in the capital and in the country's interior, some school-age 
children do not have access to education because of a lack of 
transportation, facilities, or teachers.

     Indigenous People

Most Amerindians and Maroons suffer a number of disadvantages 
and have only limited ability to participate in decisions 
affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and natural 
resources.  The nation'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 in the interior became 
largely unavailable and much of the infrastructure was 
destroyed during the 1986-91 domestic insurgencies; progress in 
reestablishing services and rebuilding the infrastructure was 
very slow.  Although the peace accords ending the insurgencies 
provided for the appointment of a Consultative Council for the 
development of the interior, including representatives of the 
Maroon and Amerindian communities, the Government has not yet 
appointed that Council.  The Government did not consult with 
representatives of the Amerindian and Maroon communities about 
the granting of gold and timber concessions in areas they 
inhabit.

     People with Disabilities

There are no laws concerning access for disabled people and no 
provisions for making private or public buildings accessible to 
them.  There are also no laws mandating that they be given 
equal consideration when seeking jobs or housing.  However, 
there are some training programs for the blind and others with 
disabilities.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for 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 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 also provides for the right of nongovernment 
employees to strike.  Civil servants have no legal 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

The Constitution explicitly recognizes these rights and the 
authorities respect them 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.  The Labor Ministry individually reviews 
dismissals for cause; if it finds a discharge unjustified, the 
employer must reinstate the employee.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

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

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 16 years.  The 
Ministry of Labor and the police enforce this law only 
sporadically, however.  Those under 16 years of age are often 
employed as street vendors, newspaper sellers, or shop 
assistants.  School attendance is compulsory until the age of 
12.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no minimum wage legislation.  The Government's lowest 
wage for a civil servant is about $6 (SF3085) a month, which 
will not provide a decent living for a worker and family.  The 
Government sets civil service wages and the National Assembly 
approves them.

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.  The 
law requires one 24-hour rest period 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 safely 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 workplace situation 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.


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[end of document]

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