PHILIPSBURG–The Cabinet of the Justice Ministry said in a press release on Sunday that the Court of First Instance’s verdict that dismissed the case of 37 inmates against the St. Maarten government is no cause for celebration.
The Court of First Instance ruled on Friday that the claims of 37 inmates who filed an injunction against Country St. Maarten and the Minister of Justice for their transfer to safe prison facilities in the Netherlands or Bonaire were inadmissible because under civil law the Minister of Justice cannot be summoned to appear in Court and that there were no grounds to compel the Netherlands to accept the inmates.
The inmates had also called on the Judge to award damages of US $1,000 per day, with a maximum of $10 million, in case of non-compliance.
“Although the outcome of the ruling being in the favour of government and the monetary claims of the plaintiffs being dismissed, there is very little cause for celebration. The wellbeing of the inmates, staff and management are top priority for Justice Minister Anna Richardson and she remains committed to improving the situation at the prison. This matter continues to have her full attention,” said the Cabinet of the Justice Ministry on Sunday.
“I am grateful that the court ruled in favour of government and was able to identify that there was no basis on which the claim could succeed
“With just two months in office, my team and I are working diligently on projects and plans to ensure that the situation at our detention facilities are improved while simultaneously laying the groundwork to construct a new facility.
“This new facility will include consistent positive development programmes aimed at rehabilitating the minds and attitudes of the inmates.
“With this court case now behind us, the Ministry of Justice will continue to push forward in cooperation with the Ministry of VROMI [Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure – Ed.], consulting with UNOPS [United Nations Office for Project Services] and with the assistance of SOAB [Government Accountant Bureau Foundation] and other technical experts to finally make strides with this very pressing matter,” said Justice Minister Anna Richardson in response to the verdict.
The Kingdom Relations Committee of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament will meet today, Monday, and Dutch Member of Parliament Chris van Dam of coalition party Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) is expected to present a motion that will ask the Kingdom Council of Ministers to manage the St. Maarten prison system for a period of five years. The cost of the intervention will be borne by the St. Maarten government, according to the draft motion.
The Second Chamber meeting will discuss reports of the St. Maarten Progress Committee and the Law Enforcement Council. Dutch Minister of Justice and Security Ferd Grapperhaus, Dutch Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker, and Dutch State Secretary of home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops are expected to be in attendance.
Richardson said she had learned about the motion because Van Dam sent it by e-mail to the St. Maarten Parliament.
“In his e-mail Van Dam expressed the sentiments that many have long held, which is that the situation in the Pointe Blanche prison is deeply concerning. He acknowledges that this concern exists on both sides of the Atlantic. However, despite all the good intentions, he notes that St. Maarten has been unable to solve the situation on its own.
“As it relates to improving the human rights situation, Van Dam is of the opinion that this cannot be put off any longer and feels the responsibility to help find a solution,” said the Cabinet of the Justice Ministry.
Richardson said she is open to any support aimed at improving the situation in St. Maarten’s detention facilities. “Any positive contribution towards overcoming challenges that the country is facing is an opportunity to continue to move the country forward,” she said.
She also said she will be contacting her Dutch counterparts to discuss Van Dam’s motion, their ideas about it, and how the motion can complement the plans on which she has been working since taking office in early April.
“The Minister has developed a phased approach to the prison and has consulted with different stakeholders involved.
“As it relates to pertinent phases in the process, such as the current detention capacity, engineers within the Ministry of VROMI have drawn up preliminary plans for a temporary new facility and steps are being undertaken to have these plans executed. SOAB is putting the finishing touches on the proposal that will serve to inform all parties that will be involved in assisting St. Maarten in building a new prison facility.
“Having a state-of-the-art facility without adequate daytime activities and proper programmes for detainees does not help the community and will be ineffective, as offenders do not have the opportunity to better themselves while serving their sentence.
“To avoid this pitfall, Minister Richardson has sought input from various stakeholders, such as Foundation Judicial Institutes St. Maarten (SJIB), to ensure that the construction of any new facility takes all factors … into consideration,” said the Cabinet of the Justice Ministry.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/justice-ministry-verdict-is-no-cause-for-celebration