Countries fail to agree on all aspects judicial Kingdom laws

THE HAGUE–More than two years after the results of the evaluation of the Justice Kingdom Consensus Laws were presented, the countries of the Kingdom have failed to reach an agreement on a number of aspects of these laws that were established as part of the new constitutional structure.

The joint reaction of the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten regarding the recommendations of the Evaluation Committee Judicial Kingdom Consensus Laws included agreement on many points, but not on all.

“It has become clear that the countries have very different points of view regarding several important subjects,” stated Dutch Minister of Justice and Security Ferd Grapperhaus in a document he sent to the Dutch Parliament on Thursday. He noted that it was not possible to formulate a joint position on the issues in question.

The countries were unable to reach an agreement on the unilateral right to cancel the Kingdom Consensus Laws, the operational managing of the special police task force Detective Cooperating Team RST, and the continuation of having one joint Attorney General for Curaçao and St. Maarten.

When it presented its findings in September 2015, the Evaluation Committee did not come with a recommendation regarding the possibility to unilaterally cancel one or more Kingdom Consensus Laws. The Committee did conclude that the laws didn’t clearly indicate the right to annul.

“However, both Curaçao and St. Maarten still wish to have a formal basis for a unilateral annulment right created in the Judicial Kingdom Laws, because this legislation contains regulations that infringe on the autonomy of these countries,” it was stated in the joint Kingdom reaction to the evaluation.

The Netherlands is convinced that these laws can only be terminated in mutual understanding since the Judicial Kingdom laws were established through consensus. “This entails that a possible annulment of the laws has to take place through consensus.” The four Kingdom Consensus Laws relate to the Joint Court, the Prosecutor’s Offices, the Police Forces and the Law Enforcement Council.

The countries agreed that Curaçao and St. Maarten will table the matter of the annulment of the Kingdom Consensus Laws at the Kingdom Council of Ministers. The two countries will also inform their own Parliament so the latter can take the matter to the Inter-Parliamentary Consultation for the Kingdom IPKO.

As for the RST, the countries didn’t manage to arrive at a common standpoint regarding the operational managing and the position of the RST. The Netherlands is in favour of maintaining the independent position of the RST. Managed by the team chef and under the authority of the Attorney General, the RST carries out investigations into border-transgressing crime, heavy and/or organised crime, the execution of inter-regional and international legal aid requests.

This doesn’t take away the fact that the local police forces can also carry out these investigations, and that cooperation between the police forces and the RST is still necessary. The Netherlands remarked that it is still not clear whether the Curaçao and St. Maarten Police Forces have sufficient capacity to carry out such investigations.

The Curaçao position is primarily based on the autonomous character of justice as a policy area for which the local Minister of Justice carries the responsibility. That is why Curaçao wishes to place the complete final responsibility at the management of the local police force which reports to the Minister of Justice. According to Curaçao, the RST is a cooperation team working on Curaçao’s autonomous territory, and as such the RST cannot operate on its own.

The countries furthermore were unable to formulate a common position to maintain a joint Attorney General for Curaçao, St. Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands. Curaçao and St. Maarten have been striving, as autonomous countries within the Kingdom, for their own Attorney General, just as Aruba has its own. Curaçao and St. Maarten consider this to be a principle matter: an autonomous country with an autonomous justice policy should have its own Attorney General.

Having their own Attorney General also means that the person in question lives in that country, has his or her own local personnel and can combat local crime more effectively. Then there is also the issue of loyalty since the Attorney General would solely report to the country’s Minister of Justice instead of three different Ministers of Justice.
In the process to secure new constitutional relations, St. Maarten has always pushed for having its own Attorney General. Instead, St. Maarten had to accept a shared Attorney General and only having its own Solicitor General.

St. Maarten is particularly concerned about the disadvantages of the geographical distance: the current Attorney General resides in Curaçao and carries the responsibility for various jurisdictions. Less than 10 per cent of the staff of the Attorney General lives in St. Maarten. St. Maarten feels that, as a result of this, the island doesn’t get its fair share of attention to combat crime. A St. Maarten Attorney General with his/her own personnel can focus more on the local crime situation.

The Netherlands, on the other hand, sees great advantages of having one Attorney General for Curaçao, St. Maarten and for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, especially where it concerns the combating of border-transgressing crime, since this enhances the effectiveness.

Having one joint Attorney General also secures guarantees against the risks of the independent position of this institution. An Attorney General of a smaller country can possibly be influenced by the local Justice Minister regarding the individual decisions of prosecution.

The Netherlands does acknowledge the practical challenges. Therefore, the Netherlands advocates that the three Justice Ministers come to an agreement to combat crime equally in all countries.

The four countries did formulate common positions on the majority of the recommendations of the Evaluation Committee. These include the organisation of the police forces, the further development of the Kingdom Law Police, the frequent changes of police personnel, the use of the Dutch language and the barrier that it causes, the financing of the justice sector, the need to invest in the empowerment of policy, the personal financial liability of judges and other issues regarding the operations of the Common Court of Justice.

The four countries acknowledged that a lot of work has been done since October 10, 2010, to implement the Judicial Kingdom Consensus Laws. The next steps will be discussed at the bi-annual Judicial Four Party Consultation JVO.

Source: The Daily Herald