U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Suriname
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Suriname, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1b14.html [accessed 7 May 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
SURINAMEAfter over a decade of predominantly military rule, Suriname installed a freely elected Parliament and inaugurated a democratically chosen president in 1991. That president, Ronald Venetiaan, sought reelection in May 1996, but no candidate was able to secure the two-thirds majority of the 51-member National Assembly necessary to elect a president. In accordance with the Constitution, an 837-member United People's Assembly, a broadly representative, democratically chosen body, then voted in Jules Wijdenbosch of the National Democratic Party (NDP) as President in September 1996. Wijdenbosch formed a cabinet from members of the NDP, the ethnic-Hindustani Grassroots Party for Renewal and Democracy, the ethnic-Javanese party KTPI, and several smaller political parties. Although the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the effectiveness of the courts is limited in practice. The armed forces are responsible for national security, border, and immigration control and are nominally under control of the civilian Minister of Defense. Civilian police bear primary responsibility for the maintenance of law and order, and report to the Ministry of Justice and Police. The Venetiaan government had taken steps to reform the military in 1995-96 by purging military officers and supporters of former dictator Desi Bouterse, who ruled the country in the 1980's. Although this action somewhat extended democratic civilian control over the military, since the establishment of the Wijdenbosch Government, Bouterse loyalists have returned to positions of responsibility. Moreover, in April President Wijdenbosch named Bouterse as First State Adviser, formalizing his influence over the government. Prison officials and the military continue to be responsible for some human rights abuses. The economy depends heavily on the export of bauxite derivatives. Unregulated gold mining is an increasingly important economic activity that highlights a lack of land rights for indigenous and tribal people and has a serious environmental impact. The Government and state-owned companies employ over half the working population. Following 4 years of double-digit inflation, the rate dipped to 1 percent in 1996 and remained under 5 percent for most of 1997. The estimated real economic growth rate was about 4 percent, and per capita annual income is about $1,372. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, endemic problems still remain in some areas. Police mistreat detainees, guards abuse prisoners, and jails are overcrowded. The judiciary suffers from a huge case backlog. Societal discrimination against women and indigenous and tribal people persist, and violence against women is a problem. In view of the human rights record of the Bouterse regime, many of whose members participate in the current Government, human rights organizations remain concerned about the potential for a deterioration of civil liberties. The Wijdenbosch administration has not addressed calls to investigate human rights abuses by previous regimes, other than by appointing a committee in December to establish a framework for an investigative commission.