Moiwana Community v. Suriname

Moiwana Community v. Surin., Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 124 (June 15, 2005).
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The village of Moiwana, consisting of N’djuka people of African descent, was attacked in November 1986 by members of the armed forces of Suriname, who allegedly massacred  40 men, women and children, and “razed the village to the ground.” Members of Moiwana practiced hunting, farming, and fishing as their means of subsistence. Following the massacre, many inhabitants of Moiwana fled into the forests and later reached refugee camps in French Guiana or were internally displaced within Suriname. Since their flight from the village, many had “suffered poverty and deprivation” and had been unable to practice their traditional means of subsistence and livelihood. Also, no investigation of the massacre had been conducted by Suriname, no one had been prosecuted or held liable for the massacre, and many members of Moiwana remained displaced. The displaced Moiwana feared returning to the traditional lands due to the existing impunity and were thus unwilling to return to their traditional way of life. The Moiwana therefore claimed emotional and psychological hardship resulting from their displacement and Suriname’s failure to investigate the massacre and prosecute those responsible.

The Court found that State of Suriname responsible for the violations of Art. 5 (right humane treatment) of the American Convention on Human Rights to the detriment of Moiwana community members. The Court considers the failure of the State to conduct effective investigations into the massacre, the ongoing impunity of those directly responsible, the resulting inability of the Moiwana to perform their traditional burial rituals to honor their deceased ones, and the separation of the Moiwana from their traditional lands all constitute a violation of Art. 5.

"93: The State's failure to fulfill this obligation has prevented the Moiwana community members from properly honoring their deceased loved ones and has implicated their forced separation from their traditional lands; both situations compromise the rights enshrined in Article 5 of the Convention. Furthermore, the personal integrity of the community members has been undermined as a result of the obstruction of their persistent efforts to obtain justice for the attack on their village, particularly in light of the N'djuka emphasis upon punishing offenses in a suitable manner. The following analysis will begin with that last point."

"103: Moiwana community members have endured significant emotional, psychological, spiritual and economic hardship – suffering to a such a degree as to result in the State's violation of Article 5(1) [right to humane treatment] of the American Convention, in relation to Article 1(1) of that treaty, to the detriment of said community members."

"86(43): The ongoing impunity for the 1986 raid on Moiwana Village and the inability of the community to understand the motives for that attack have generated a deep fear in the members that they may be subject to future aggressions, which is a central factor preventing them from returning to live in their traditional lands."

"99: If the various death rituals are not performed according to N'djuka tradition, it is considered a profound moral transgression, which will not only anger the spirit of the individual who died, but also may offend other ancestors of the community […]. This leads to a number of "spiritually-caused illnesses" that become manifest as actual physical maladies and can potentially affect the entire natural lineage […]. The N'djuka understand that such illnesses are not cured on their own, but rather must be resolved through cultural and ceremonial means; if not, the conditions will persist through generations […]."

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