Press Release

Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty Concludes Visit to Suriname

June 9, 2011

Washington, D.C. - The Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) carried out a visit to the Republic of Suriname on May 25-27, 2011. The delegation was composed of the Rapporteur, Commissioner Rodrigo Escobar Gil, and staff of the IACHR Executive Secretariat. This is the first observation visit made by an international human rights institution to incarceration facilities in the Republic of Suriname. The Inter-American Commission thanks the Surinamese government for its cooperation, the unrestricted access to detention centers, and the high degree of organization shown during the visit.

In the city of Paramaribo, the delegation met with the Director of the Multilateral Affairs Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador E.W. Limon; the Minister of Justice and Police, M.P. Misiedjan; the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Police, I. Huijzen Sedney; the Chief of Police, Commissioner D.W.D. Braam; the Director of Prisons, E. Belfort; high-level officials of the Public Prosecution Office; and with technical staff from different areas of the aforementioned institutions and from the high police command.

The Office of the Rapporteur team visited the Youth Detention Center ("Opa Doeli") for minors who are being criminally prosecuted; the Central Penitentiary ("Santa Boma") for convicted offenders, which has different sections for juveniles and adults of both sexes; the Huis van Bewaring Detention Center ("New HVB"), which was originally built to house adult males in preventive detention; and the Geyersvlijt Police Station.

In Suriname, Commissioner Escobar Gil and his delegation led a workshop on international human rights standards regarding persons deprived of liberty. The Rapporteur also gave a press conference.

The Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty recognizes that important progress has been made on prison matters, such as the recent openings of detention centers that have all the necessary facilities and services. During the visits the delegation observed that, in general, the physical structures and housing conditions of the prisons visited are good, and that at the time of the visit they were below their maximum housing capacity. Among other positive aspects, the IACHR also welcomes the fact that the internal security and management of prison facilities is in the hands of a corps of prison officials specifically assigned to exercise those functions.

On the other hand, the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty observed with concern serious deficiencies in the quantity, quality, and hygiene of the food given to prisoners, and in the medical care available. It also attested to the existence of a jail with three isolation cells commonly known as "black rooms," in which prisoners who commit disciplinary offenses are confined for days and even weeks. The delegation observed a distinct lack of adequate rehabilitation programs and the absence of clear criteria for assigning jobs in prison workshops. The delegation also observed with concern that there is a serious overcrowding problem at the Geyersvlijt Police Station Jail, particularly in the men's area, and some individuals in custody have no beds, but have to sleep in hammocks strung between the beds of other detainees. In that jail, the sanitary and hygiene conditions are deplorable; the toilets are in poor condition, and the garbage, which is only taken out once a week, is stored near the toilets and showers. The majority of the detainees who were interviewed, both men and women, said they were kept in total confinement for almost the entire day, that the water they are given to drink is generally bad, and that the State does not provide medical care. In the women's section, the delegation saw with dismay that there were two women present who were in their fifth and seventh month of pregnancy, respectively. This was reported to the relevant authorities so the women could be transferred immediately to another jail facility.

The Inter-American Commission urges the State of Suriname to promote, advance, and adopt comprehensive public policies that include programs and concrete measures that are geared toward overcoming the aforementioned deficiencies, and designed so that the rights of persons deprived of liberty are respected and guaranteed and so that punishments involving deprivation of liberty meet the aims specifically established by the American Convention on Human Rights. The State should allocate the necessary resources to achieve these aims and introduce any legislative and institutional reforms that may be necessary.

This press release is accompanied by an annex, which contains preliminary observations on the visit.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

                                                                                                                                                                                        No. 56/11