Teaching Comparative Law in Suriname

This summer I found myself teaching a course at the FHR School of Law in Paramaribo, Suriname. The course is part of a new curriculum developed by the School’s energetic rector Hans Lim A Po, a Leiden Law School graduate who –after his retirement – decided to establish a new academic institution in his home country. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching The Civil Law and Common Law Tradition: all 24 student were truly interested in hearing about differences among the two great legal traditions. This does not come as a surprise as they have to deal with these differences on a daily basis: all students, ranging in age between 25 and 60, are active as legal practitioners and are regularly confronted with other jurisdictions than their own. Suriname’s neighbouring countries are the civil law jurisdictions of French Guyana and Brazil and the common law jurisdiction of Guyana. More importantly, Suriname has many economic contacts with common law countries in the Caribbean. In this sense, I could put into practice what I recently advocated in a paper: only an international legal education prepares students properly for a legal career in today’s rapidly globalising world. In addition to this, the needs of Suriname are special in the sense that its legal development was always closely tied to the Netherlands, the country from which it became independent in 1975. Even today, the old Dutch textbooks of before the introduction of the new Dutch Civil Code (1992) are still widely used in Suriname, although the country could – if the political institutions would pursue this aim – play a role as a forerunner in the region by proposing innovative solutions to legal problems. Some say that Suriname should introduce the new Dutch Civil Code in the same way as the Dutch Antilles did. I would say this is a bad idea: the unique geographical position of Suriname calls for a more fundamental reorientation on the laws it wants to have and the foreign parties it wants to attract to its jurisdiction.

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