Global Human Rights Defence

Amazon - Suriname

Suriname, a  country on the north-eastern coast of South America, is one of the nine countries the vast Amazon rainforest encompasses. With a surface area of 163,820km², the Amazon covers 94% of Suriname’s land. While the majority of the Surinamese population inhabit the capital city, Paramaribo, as well as other coastal cities, approximately 5% of the Surinamese population live in interior rainforest territories. For the majority indigenous populations that inhabit the interior territories, traditional methods of hunting and farming are a way of life. The Amazon rainforest, therefore, is their livelihood – and a resource worth protecting.

The situation in Suriname and how the Amazon is endangered by deforestation and the country policies

Resource Extraction and Deforestation 

Yet Suriname’s policies relating to resource extraction endanger the Amazon. High global demand for gold encourages deforestation and haphazard extraction activities. Meanwhile, the relaxed enforcement of lenient legislation only further contributes to the degradation of its world-renowned forestry; the critical Mining Code of 1986 relates to concession rights and administration and is thus outdated in light of countries’ heightened interest in environmental responsibility. Undertaken by illegal migrant miners from Brazil and occurring in the borderlands or protected areas, these small-scale mining operations produce mercury pollution and runoff, impacting the environment that lies at the heart of the indigenous communities’ existence.

Indigenous Tourism – Friend or Foe? 

In addition to Suriname’s policies concerning resource extraction, the ever-growing sector of ‘Indigenous Tourism’ can also be perceived to have an endangering impact on the Amazon. Indigenous tourism can be understood as tourist activities that involve the cultures and habitats of indigenous people as the fundamental part of the attraction. While tourism is crucial to Suriname’s economic growth, it should be made evident that aspects such as “eco”- resorts, that are not part of the indigenous villages, result in dislocation and therefore disrupts the essence of the land. It furthermore enables the potential of making the Amazon region vulnerable to the international market because of diasporic tourism. If Suriname aspires to create educational spaces for indigenous peoples and incorporate them directly in the tourism sector, the concept of ‘Indigenous Tourism’ may not be entirely harmful.

The Deprivation of Human Rights of the Indigenous Communities 

Although Suriname is party to various international and regional human rights treaties, it has continuously failed to recognize, respect, and implement Indigenous Peoples’ rights enshrined in those instruments. As a result, Indigenous peoples are being marginalized and deprived of their fundamental human rights as guaranteed in various treaties such as, inter alia, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Accordingly, such rights include (i) the right to self-determination; (ii) the right to an adequate standard of living; (iii) the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; (iv) property rights and (v) the right to education. First, even though the right to self-determination was recognized to include the right to own and control traditional lands and resources, Indigenous peoples are still not entitled to enjoy such rights. Second, Surinamese Indigenous Peoples are being denied their inherent right to an adequate standard of living including adequate food, water, clothing, housing, and the improvement of living conditions. Third, the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is, likewise, not guaranteed to the indigenous communities, due to the poor access to healthcare facilities and lack of qualitatively competent medical staff. Fourth, despite the pivotal role of the lands and resources for Indigenous Peoples, Suriname fails to provide their right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories, and resources that they possess. Finally, access to education remains limited for the indigenous communities, since schools are not available. If and when they are available, they are not adequately equipped to meet the needs of the students, and therefore their right to education is infringed upon.

Such infringements upon the rights of the Indigneous communities have been brought to judicial institutions, such as the Inter-American Commision on Human Rights (IACHR). In 2015, the IACHR delivered a judgment in the case of the Kaliña and Lokono Peoples v. Suriname, and declared the State of Suriname culpable for the violation of (i) rights to recognition of juridical personality, (ii) collective property, (iii) political rights, (iv) cultural identity, and (v) the duty to adopt domestic legal provisions, all of which are reported to have deprived the aforementioned indigenous communities of an entitled, demarcated territory (Kaliña and Lokono Peoples v. Suriname, 2015). Such decisions from international actors inspire an increasingly collective-oriented view on international human rights by recognising the collective legal personality of Indigenous peoples, and by extension, make the likelihood of enforcing such rights all the more tangible. 

However, where the Amazon territories of Brazil and Peru, for example, have garnered much attention and have remained the center of concern for climate and human rights activists, the Surinamese Amazon rainforest remains a comparatively insufficiently researched and protected territory. Demand for natural resources, lax legislation, and weaning international pressures are all cause for concern. Hence, awareness, research and action are pertinent to ensure a future for the Surinamese Amazon territories and the indigenous peoples that reside within it. 

References: 

Inter-American Court of Human Rights., Case of the Kaliña and Lokono Peoples v. Suriname. Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of November 25, 2015. Series C No. 309.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, arts. 1(1), 27.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, 993 U.N.T.S. 3, arts. 1(1), 11-12, 13(1), 15.

Convention on the Rights of the Child, Nov. 20, 1989, 1577 U.N.T.S. 3, arts. 11, 24(2)(c), 28-29, 32.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Dec. 21, 1965, 660 U.N.T.S. 195, art. 5(d)(v).

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Dec. 18 1979, 1249 U.N.T.S. 13.

American Convention on Human Rights, Nov. 22, 1969, O.A.S. Treaty Series No. 36 (ACHR) art. 21.

Observations on the State of Indigenous Human Rights in Suriname prepared for the United Nations Human Rights Council: Universal Periodic Review March 2021, 4.

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Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)
(Europe)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher
(Africa)

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher
(Africa)​

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.

 

Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.