The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Suriname is a state party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assembly, providing that:
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Suriname is also a state party to the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which allows individuals to petition the Human Rights Committee if they believe the state has violated their human rights as protected under the Covenant.
At regional level, Suriname is a state party to the 1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights. Article 15 governs the right of assembly:
The right of peaceful assembly, without arms, is recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and necessary in a democratic society in the interest of national security, public safety or public order, or to protect public health or morals or the rights or freedom of others.
Suriname has accepted the competence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to hear complaints by individuals under the jurisdiction of Argentina that their rights under the 1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights have been violated.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Article 20 of the 1987 Constitution of Suriname (as amended) governs the right of peaceful assembly:
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful association and assembly, taking into consideration the rules to be determined by law for the protection of public order, safety, health and morality.
It is not known if there is specific national legislation in Suriname governing public assemblies.
The Legal Framework on Use of Force During Assemblies
The Use of Force
International Legal Rules
Under international law, the duty on the state and its law enforcement agencies is to facilitate the enjoyment of the right of peaceful assembly. According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials:
In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.
All force used by police and other law enforcement agencies must be necessary for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and proportionate to that purpose.
The use of force is regulated in the 1971 Police Charter. Article 12(1) allows force to be used in the event of unwillingness to comply with a lawful police order or where there is an apparent intent to use force against the police. Under paragraph 2, the police may explicitly use force to disperse assemblies. Only proportionate force should be used; and no more pain or injury should be inflicted than is unavoidable in the circumstances.
The Use of Firearms
International Legal Rules
According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles, in the dispersal of violent assemblies, a law enforcement official may only use a firearm against a specific individual where this is necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life.
There is no specific national legislation governing police use of firearms during assemblies.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2015 Concluding Observations on Suriname, the Human Rights Committee did not address the right of peaceful assembly.
Suriname did not address the issue of peaceful assembly in its 2016 Universal Periodic Review under the Human Rights Council.
There has been no case involving the right of peaceful assembly in Suriname in recent years.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2019 report on Suriname:
The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, which is generally respected in practice. However, members of the antigovernment protest movement We Zijn Moe-Dig (We Are Tired/Courageous), which was founded in 2015, say President Bouterse has characterized them as traitors.