A great article Dorian. The situation of non-implementation of decisions from international bodies is an unfortunately common one it seems. The Saramaka case that you describe is similar to the Endorois decision in Kenya (2010) where the government drags its feet in implementation. There the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights similarly sanctioned the State for its failure to implement the decision and yet this has done little to prompt the government to action.
Different than the Saramaka case though is the Kenyan government’s position on minority rights and environmental protection. Unlike Suriname, Kenya is not looking to court environmental protection, rather it is at the heart of environmental protection, especially within the global south. Nairobi is home to UNEP and the Constitution itself (Art. 69(1)(b) enshrines the principle of returning at least ten percent of the country’s land to tree cover. Furthermore, Kenya recognizes customary tenure claims to land based on ancestral occupation and use (though the extent to which customary claims supersede legal claims is debatable). Despite this vast framework that presumably would support implementation, the Endorois actually face threats from the government in controlling their ancestral land. The government, in pursuit of environmental protection, sought to designate the land as protected under UNESCO. Having been approved of this status, the government is able to profit from tourism of the area while also relying upon the designation as a reason to not return the land to the Endorois.
I am bringing up the Endorois example for a number of reasons:
- To bring attention to the issue of non-implementation of international decisions by state actors is a problem across the globe.
- To point out the need for alternative international levers to be utilized in a careful manner so as not to empower governments looking to avoid international obligations.
- And to advocate for more legal research into whether domestic courts are taking up these principles of international law, as domestic court decisions are more likely to be implemented or at least not rejected out of hand by governments making a sovereignty argument.