Saramaka people's lawsuit against state, Suriname


The Saramaka are one of the Maroon people ("cimarrones") that are descendants from African refugees who escaped slavery in the Americas and formed their own settlements. They're specially located in the Caribbean Islands and characterized for signing treaties and negotiate their lands with colonial authorities, and that is why, at the present they're having land acquisition conflicts with the States.

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Basic Data
NameSaramaka people's lawsuit against state, Suriname
SiteUpper Suriname River
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Mineral ore exploration
Logging and non timber extraction
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project Details-A Hydroelectric Dam built in 1960 that flooded the 50% of the Saramaka territory, called Afobaka in the Brokopondo District of Suriname.

-Concessions up to 150,000 hectares to Chinese logging companies without even notifying the Saramaka people.

-Large-scale mining concessions (exploration phase) and one operating gold mine (Rosebel mine)
Project Area (in hectares)900, 000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population55000
Start Date30/09/2000
End Date12/08/2008
Company Names or State EnterprisesJi Sheng from China - concessionaire
Jin Lin Wood Industries from China - concessionaire
NV Lumprex from China - concessionaire
Relevant government actorsState of Surinam
International and Financial InstitutionsInter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH)
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters Association of Saramaka Authorities, Forest Peoples Programme
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Malnutrition
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusUnknown
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Land demarcation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Court decision not implemented
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Even if the Interamerican Court of Human Rights ordered on 28 November 2007 that Suriname shall delimit, demarcate, and grant collective title over Samaraka territory -according to the Forest People Programme- until now, the State has not taken any steps to accomplish this. Moreover the Afobaja dam was already built. There are large-scale mining concessions in exploration phase and one operating gold mine within traditional Saramaka territory (Rosebel mine) as well as a number of logging concessions .
Sources and Materials

International Convention on Human Rights
[click to view]

Constitution of Suriname
[click to view]

Ley de Gestión Forestal de Suriname de 1992

Inter-American Court of Human Rights Case of the Saramaka People v. Suriname Judgment of November 28, 2007
[click to view]


Price, Richard (2011). Rainforest Warriors Human Rights on Trial
[click to view]

Rivera y Rinaldi (2008) Pueblo Samaraka vrs Surinam: El derecho a la supervivencia de los pueblos indígenas y tribales como pueblos
[click to view]

Case of Saramaka people Vs. Surinam
[click to view]

Brunner, Lisl (2008) The Rise of Peoples' Rights in the Americas: The Saramaka People Decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
[click to view]

Inter-American Court of Human Rights Case of Twelve Saramaka Clans v. Suriname
[click to view]

Marcos A. Orellana (2008). Saramaka People V. Suriname in The American Journal of International Law. Vol. 102, No. 4. pp. 841-847
[click to view]


Saramaka People v Suriname: A Human Rights Victory and Its Messy Aftermath
[click to view]

Forest Peoples Programme (2009) Comments of the Victims’ Representatives on the First Report of the Illustrious State of Suriname in the Case of the Saramaka People
[click to view]

The Goldman Environmental Prize
[click to view]

World Watch Institute, Suriname Tribe Protects Land, Ensures Rights
[click to view]

Suriname: Chinese Logging Companies and Tribal Rights
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorGrettel Navas, Fundación Neotrópica
Last update09/01/2015