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Amnesty International Report 2003 - Suriname

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2003
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2003 - Suriname , 28 May 2003, available at: [accessed 19 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Covering events from January - December 2002

Head of state: Ronald Venetiaan
Head of government: Jules Ajodhia
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
International Criminal Court: not signed

Impunity for killings committed under military rule continued to be a major issue. Several incidents suggested excessive use of force by police.


Suriname's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was reviewed by the UN Human Rights Committee in October. As Suriname had not fulfilled its obligation to submit a report, the review took place under new procedures and was based on questions put to Suriname's representatives on issues of concern, including impunity for past violations, prison conditions, alleged ongoing human rights violations and the death penalty.

In June the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women considered Suriname's report on compliance with the UN Women's Convention, covering the period from 1993 to 1998. The Committee expressed concern at a number of issues, including the situation of rural women, particularly those from minority groups.

In August the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights responded to a petition by representatives of the Saramaka people, a group of descendants of escaped slaves of African descent who established settlements in Suriname's rainforest interior in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Commission requested the suspension of logging and mine concessions on the land in question until it had investigated the substantive claims raised in the case. It also requested that Suriname take appropriate measures to protect the physical integrity of the communities concerned.


1982 'December murders'
By mid-2002 more than 160 people had reportedly testified in the investigation into the 1982 "December murders" in which 15 journalists, academics and labour leaders were extrajudicially executed at Fort Zeelandia, an army centre in Paramaribo. In May and September, Surinamese investigators went to the Netherlands to hear testimony from people there. Lawyers for Desi Bouterse, the coup-installed military leader of Suriname at the time of the killings, were allowed to attend the hearings in the Netherlands. According to some reports, this caused some people to "adjust" their testimony out of fear of reprisals. In June a team of forensic experts from the Netherlands Forensic Institute visited Suriname and in December they returned and played an advisory role during the exhumation of the bodies of the victims.

1986 Moiwana massacre
In August the Public Prosecutor's Office ordered the reopening of the investigation into the August 1990 killing of chief inspector Herman Gooding. While leading the police investigation into the 1986 Moiwana massacre, Herman Gooding was reportedly forced out of his car by unknown assailants near Fort Zeelandia and shot in the head. His body was reportedly left outside the office of Desi Bouterse. As a result, other police investigators fled the country and the investigation into the massacre stalled.

The massacre took place on 29 November 1986 when a specialized military unit attacked the village of Moiwana, burning the house of armed opposition leader Ronnie Brunswijk and reportedly killing at least 35 people, mostly women and children. Civilian police investigated the massacre. Several soldiers were arrested, but were released at the demand of armed military police officers said to have the backing of Desi Bouterse.

In June 1997 the non-governmental human rights organization Moiwana '86 lodged a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concerning the massacre. The Commission made a series of recommendations to the government, and extended the deadline to late 2002 by which it had to comply. However, the government did not do so and in December the case passed to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Possible excessive use of force by police

In several incidents the police reportedly used excessive force. The authorities failed to reply to AI's requests for further information on the cases.

  • In March a man held in the detention block of the police station Keizersstraat in Paramaribo was reportedly shot dead by police as he tried to escape. Another detainee was apparently injured during the attempted escape and needed hospital treatment.
  • In May a man who allegedly fled after resisting arrest following a suspected robbery in the Del Pradostraat in Paramaribo was reportedly shot dead. Police were said to have fired after he failed to stop in response to warning shots.
  • In April 2001 Ricardo Benito Vrieze was reportedly shot and killed by a police officer in a sports complex in Paramaribo. The officer was said to have shot him twice while arresting him for suspected theft and vandalism. In July 2002 the police officer was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison, reportedly for excessive use of violence. It was not clear whether the officer was subsequently taken into custody. Meanwhile the Public Prosecutor, who had asked for six years' imprisonment, was said to be considering an appeal.
Conditions of detention

Conditions in the severely overcrowded prisons and police jails were reportedly harsh, sometimes amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
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