Last update:

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.

See more
Basic Data
Name of conflict:Saramaka people's lawsuit against state, Suriname
Location of conflict:Upper 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:Deforestation
Mineral ore exploration
Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific commodities:Land
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.

See more
Project area:900, 000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:55000
Start of the conflict:30/09/2000
End of the conflict:12/08/2008
Company names or state enterprises:Ji Sheng from China - concessionaire
Jin Lin Wood Industries from China - concessionaire
NV Lumprex from China - concessionaire
Relevant government actors:State of Surinam
International and Finance InstitutionsInter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available: Association of Saramaka Authorities, Forest Peoples Programme
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Development 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-economical 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
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain: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 & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

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

International Convention on Human Rights
[click to view]

Ley de Gestión Forestal de Suriname de 1992

Constitution of Suriname
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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

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

Case of Saramaka people Vs. Surinam
[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]

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

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

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

The Goldman Environmental Prize
[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]

Meta information
Contributor:Grettel Navas, Fundación Neotrópica
Last update09/01/2015
Legal notice / Aviso legal
We use cookies for statistical purposes and to improve our services. By clicking "Accept cookies" you consent to place cookies when visiting the website. For more information, and to find out how to change the configuration of cookies, please read our cookie policy. Utilizamos cookies para realizar el análisis de la navegación de los usuarios y mejorar nuestros servicios. Al pulsar "Accept cookies" consiente dichas cookies. Puede obtener más información, o bien conocer cómo cambiar la configuración, pulsando en más información.