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world-renowned forestry; the critical Mining Code of 1986 relates to concession rights and administration and is thus outdated in light of countries’ heightened interest in environmental responsibility.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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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.

Marguerite Remy
Coordinator Middle East and a Legal Researcher.

Marguerite is the coordinator of the team of legal researchers focusing on the Middle East and a legal researcher herself.

She developed her expertise in international human rights law, international criminal law and humanitarian law during her double bachelor in law and political science at Sorbonne-Paris 1 University and her LLM in public international law at Leiden University. Particularly interested in the Middle East for years, Marguerite has acquired a good knowledge of the region and its human rights issues through various field experience, including internships in a cultural service of the French embassy and in a local NGO, as well as a semester in a university in the region. Currently, her main interests are accountability mechanisms for crimes committed during recent armed conflicts, notably in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the Palestinian case at the ICC, and transitional justice issues.

Nicole
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.

Mattia Ruben Castiello
Media quality coordinator

Mattia is currently in charge of quality checking and improving all the social media and website handles of the Global Human Rights Defence.
With a bachelor in Psychology from Spain and a master in Cultural Anthropology from the Netherlands, Mattia’s passion now lies in Human Rights in regard to the refugee and migrant crisis. Having lived his whole life in East-Arica, Mattia has had the opportunity to work with a vast amount of non-government organisations and health institutions. This has provided him with knowledge in diverse cultural understandings as well as interest in concerning global issues.

Jeremy Samuël van den Enden
Coordinator Bangladesh & Communication Officer
Mr. Van den Enden has a MSc in International Relations and specializes in inequality, racial dynamics and security within international diplomacy and policymaking. He studies the contemporary as well as modern historical intricacies of human rights in the global political arena. Furthermore, Mr. Van den Enden assists GHRD in revitalizing its internal and external communication.
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.

Prerna Tara
Human Rights Coordinator

Prerna Tara graduated from Leiden Law School with an LLM in Public International Law. She practiced in the India before starting her Masters. She has assisted in pro- bono cases and interned at some of the best legal firms in India which has brought her face to face with the legal complexities in areas of corporate law, white collar crimes etc. Her work at GHRD deals with human rights research spanning throughout the globe.

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.

Bianca Fyvie
Coordinator and Head Researcher
(Africa)

Bianca has widespread knowledge about social problems and human rights issues, with a specific focus on social justice in Africa and the empowerment of communities and individuals. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Stellenbosch University as well as a Master’s degree in Social Work and Human Rights from Gothenburg University. She has participated in courses on Women’s Leadership at Stellenbosch University, and has worked with organizations such as AIESEC towards furthering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. She also has experience in working directly with marginalized and vulnerable groups in South Africa while qualifying as a Social Worker.
Bianca is the coordinator for a group of interns doing research and reporting on Human Rights topics in a range of African countries. Her focus is on ensuring that these countries are monitored and have up to date reports and research conducted in order to allow relevant and updated information to be produced.

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

Hiba Zene
Coordinator and Head Researcher
(Africa)

Hiba Zene holds a Bachelor’s degree in International and European Law from The Hague University and, has significant legal knowledge in the field of international human rights law. She actively advocates for the protection of all human rights of vulnerable minorities and marginalised groups. Focusing, specifically on the human rights of children and women in Africa.
Hiba is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. As a human rights defender for GHRD she has examined and investigated various human rights abuses, violations and issues in Africa. She has led research missions addressing issues on Statelessness in Kenya, Child Abuse in Uganda, and Teen Pregnancy in Kenya.

Thaís Ferreira de Souza
Coordinator and Head Researcher (International Justice and Human Rights)

Senior Paralegal at PGMBM (Amsterdam office), working to bring justice for victims of wrongdoing by big corporations, with a focus on human rights and environmental law.
Previously, Thaís worked as a Visiting Professional at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, providing legal advice on international human rights law and international criminal law. She also worked at the State Court of Justice of the Rondônia State (TJRO) in Brazil from 2013 to 2017, initially as a legal clerk and posteriorly as a legal advisor to judges. In 2016 she served as the regional representative of the Brazilian Institute of Criminal Procedural Law (IBRASPP) in the State of Rondônia, Brazil and during her bachelor’s degree, she worked as a Research Assistant at the Research Group ‘Ethics and Human Rights’ of the Federal University of Rondônia for over three years.

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.

Fabian Escobar
Coordinator and Head Researcher
(Europe)

My name is Fabian Escobar, L.L.B. International and European Law candidate to The Hague University. I was born in Honduras and been living in The Netherlands, more specifically Amsterdam the last 8 years. I am passionate about Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, fighting racism, and empowering women and ethnic minorities. In GHRD I am the coordinator for the Europe Team, I am thankful for being part of this team and that I have been given the opportunity to learn and apply my learning.