Washington, D.C., April 13, 2012 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern with respect to the amnesty legislation approved by the Parliament of Suriname on April 5, 2012. The legislation seeks to consolidate immunity for human rights violations committed during the military era (1982-1992) in Suriname, and to remove the exception in the 1992 Amnesty Law that applies to crimes against humanity and war crimes.
At the closing of its most recent sessions, the IACHR expressed that initiatives of this nature impede compliance with cases that have already been decided by the inter-American system, including the Massacre of Moiwana case, among others. The Inter-American Commission must reiterate that amnesty laws related to serious human rights violations are incompatible with international human rights obligations, as such laws keep States from investigating and punishing the perpetrators.
Likewise, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has established repeatedly that an amnesty law may not serve as a justification for failing to comply with the duty to investigate and to ensure access to justice. Specifically, the Court has found that States "may not invoke existing provisions of domestic law, such as the Amnesty Law in this case, to avoid complying with their obligations under international law. In the Court's judgment, the Amnesty Law...precludes the obligation to investigate and prevents access to justice."
As the IACHR and the Inter-American Court have emphasized, laws that seek to leave serious human rights violations in impunity are incompatible with inter-American human rights obligations.
The Inter-American Commission has seen many instances where the application of amnesty laws has obstructed the clarification of grave human rights violations and the prosecution and punishment of those responsible, leading to impunity. As a consequence, a series of States in the region have reviewed and invalidated the effects of their amnesty laws in order to comply with obligations established in the inter-American system.
The IACHR closely monitored the human rights situation in Suriname during the military dictatorship, and published a series of reports documenting grave human rights violations, including various massacres. One of these involved the emblematic case of the killing of 15 prominent citizens at Fort Zeelandia on December 8, 1982, and others took place in villages in the interior. All of these massacres require clarification, prosecution and reparation.
The Inter-American Commission urges the authorities of Suriname to take all actions necessary to comply with its obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish the serious human rights violations committed during the military dictatorship.
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 Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.