Head of state and government: Runaldo Ronald Venetiaan
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
Population: 461,000
Life expectancy: 69.6 years
Under-5 mortality: 40/29 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 89.6 per cent

The trial of those accused of carrying out extrajudicial executions in December 1982 continued. The Saramaka People's land rights remained unresolved.


In July 2008 Suriname acceded to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Land rights

In August, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled on Suriname's request for an interpretation of a November 2007 judgment by the Court regarding logging and mining concessions on the territory of the Saramaka People.

The Saramaka People, are descendants of escaped African slaves who established settlements in Suriname's rainforest interior in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Court's judgment established that: "The State violated, to the detriment of the members of the Saramaka people, the right to property". By the end of the year Suriname had not complied with the Court's decisions made.

Impunity – trial developments

The trial of 25 people, including 17 former members of the armed forces, continued in the capital, Paramaribo. The men were accused of the extrajudicial execution of 13 civilians and two army officers, who had been arrested in December 1982 on suspicion of organizing an attempted coup and held at the army barracks of Fort Zeelandia in Paramaribo.

One of the accused, former President Lieutenant Colonel Désiré (Desi) Delano Bouterse, announced on television at the time that the 15 detainees had been killed while trying to escape. Reports indicate that the victims showed signs of torture: smashed jaws, broken teeth, fractured limbs, and multiple bullet entry wounds in the face, chest or abdomen. The victims included journalists, lawyers, university lecturers, businessmen and a trade union leader.

The trial, which started in November 2007, was being held before a military court instead of an ordinary civilian court, despite the fact that all ordinary offences committed by military personnel, including human rights violations and crimes under international law, should be tried in civilian courts, according to ordinary criminal procedures. The charges against the accused do not include the crime of torture.

During the hearings in July and August, the defence challenged the impartiality of two judges, arguing a conflict of interest. In November, the court dismissed the objection of the defence regarding one of the judges. In December, the motion filed against the president of the military court, judge Cynthia Valstein-Montnor, was dismissed.

This 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.