THE HAGUE–The green left party GroenLinks submitted two motions in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Wednesday to improve the detention circumstances in St. Maarten and to ask the Dutch government not to return any inmates to St. Maarten as long as the human rights standards have not improved at the Pointe Blanche prison.
The first motion presented by Member of the Second Chamber Nevin Özütok (GroenLinks) during a plenary debate called on the Dutch government, together with the St. Maarten government, to improve the detention circumstances in St. Maarten to conform to national and international human rights standards.
However, due to wrong wording in the motion, Özütok later during the debate asked to withhold the motion, which by mistake referred to a ruling of the European Human Rights Court in the case of St. Maarten casino owner Francesco Corallo and his detention under inhumane circumstances in a cell at the Philipsburg police station. Özütok’s first motion mentioned the Pointe Blanche prison in relation to the court’s ruling instead of the police cells.
State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops pointed out this error, stating that “this is a different location altogether.” Consequently, Özütok requested to hold back the motion until she has rephrased it.
Özütok’s second motion dealt with the returning of the 23 St. Maarten inmates who were transferred to Dutch prisons after Hurricane Irma. The motion called on the Dutch government not to send any inmates back to St. Maarten “as long as the humane detention circumstances are not guaranteed.”
The motion mentioned a recent internal memo of the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security which advised deferring the return of the inmates until the improvement measures had been carried out at the Pointe Blanche prison, because there was a real risk of human rights violations.
Knops advised against this motion, because the Dutch and St. Maarten governments had arrived at an agreement in October last year regarding the improvements that would be made at the Pointe Blanche prison.
Implementing these improvement measures is very necessary, said Knops. “The detention circumstances have not met the requirements for years, and that has to get better. Funding will have to freed up in St. Maarten’s budget for that. St. Maarten’s Finance Minister will have to do something there to prevent that we in The Hague have a debate every time where the responsibility lies for the country which gets projected on the Second Chamber for a short bit,” he said.
Knops said he understood the “frustration and disappointment” of some members of the Second Chamber. “I have the same, because I find that things are not going fast enough. I want more speed to improve the circumstances at the prison.”
In response to Member of Parliament (MP) André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party, who several times pointed out that not the Netherlands, but Country St. Maarten was responsible for human rights, Knops said the Dutch government did have a right to an opinion in the matter. “It may not be a case of the Netherlands, but it is a case of the Kingdom, because, as a Kingdom government, we co-sign treaties.”
He agreed with Bosman that this was a responsibility of Country St. Maarten, but said issues such as these had been addressed in talks with the government in Philipsburg and an agreement had been reached on improvement measures at the Pointe Blanche prison.
MP Chris van Dam of the Christian Democratic Party CDA warned against getting involved in a discussion regarding the Kingdom Charter and who was responsible for what, “for the reality is that within our Kingdom, there is a prison where people are detained in a manner that we shouldn’t want. I am very agitated that the St. Maarten government is not taking its responsibility.”
Towards the end of the debate in the plenary hall on Thursday morning, Knops was interrupted by a member of the public who stood up and made statements which were inaudible to the MPs and the state secretary. The meeting was adjourned for a few moments while the man was escorted out by the police.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/85782-human-rights-at-st-maarten-prison-focus-of-two-motions