Majority support for motion to take over St. Maarten prison | THE DAILY HERALD

THE HAGUE–The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday adopted the motion of Christian Democratic Party’s CDA’s Chris van Dam which requests that the Kingdom Council of Ministers take control of St. Maarten’s Pointe Blanche prison for five years.A vast majority of the Second Chamber, representing 124 of the 150 seats, voted in favour of the motion which was co-signed by Members of Parliament (MPs) André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party and Antje Diertens of the Democratic Party D66. Only the party for freedom PVV, Denk and 50Plus parties voted against.

The motion was presented during a debate on law enforcement in the Dutch Caribbean last week Wednesday with Minister of Justice and Security Ferd Grapperhaus, Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker and State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops.The motion requested the Dutch government “to realise that – at the expense of the Country St. Maarten – the execution of the prison system in St. Maarten is totally taken over by the Kingdom Council of Ministers for a period of five years.”The motion stated that the Law Enforcement Council and the St. Maarten Progress Committee had repeatedly reported that the Pointe Blanche prison was “totally unsuitable, both for human detention and as a workplace, and that the facility did not comply with international regulations.”

The motion further concluded that the progress committee determined that the St. Maarten Justice Ministry “has no grip on the detention facilities,” that St. Maarten did not have the capacity to carry this out, and that “without outside help, the country was unable to solve the detention problem.” The motion referred to the charter regarding the guarantee of basic human rights by the Kingdom.For Van Dam the majority support in the Second Chamber confirms that a proactive approach is needed to improve the situation of the Pointe Blanche prison in a sustainable manner. “The situation within the walls of the St. Maarten prison is humanly degrading,” he stated in a reaction after Tuesday’s voting.

During last week’s debate, State Secretary Knops advised against the motion of his fellow CDA party member Van Dam. He said that it was positive that St. Maarten had allocated NAf. 27 million (13.5 million euros) in the 2020 budget for the construction of a new prison.Knops said he wanted to give the Jacobs government the benefit of the doubt and to cooperate with St. Maarten to solve the prison issue. An intervention would have an adverse effect, he added. He said he did share the concerns of the Second Chamber about human rights being violated at the Pointe Blanche prison.Van Dam said during last week’s debate that he had no confidence that St. Maarten was able and willing to tackle the prison issue on its own. He repeated this on Tuesday. “Despite all good intentions of the past years, no improvements have been accomplished.”Van Dam used the fact that last Friday inmates broke out of their cells because they had not had food all day to illustrate that intervention was needed. “That is why it is now absolutely necessary that the Kingdom Council of Ministers intervenes. We cannot tolerate human rights violations within our Kingdom.”The Second Chamber on Tuesday also adopted a motion of MP Antje Diertens.

This motion, which was co-signed by Van Dam and D66 MP Maarten Groothuizen, requested that the Dutch government assess how legal assistance could be strengthened for undocumented immigrants locked up in the so-called foreigners’ barracks in Curaçao, adjacent to the prison.Diertens’ motion concluded that access to legal assistance for undocumented persons in the foreigners’ barracks in Curaçao did not comply with the legal protection requirement in the European Convention on Human Rights. Often the detained foreigner does not have access to a lawyer. The motion asked the Netherlands to see if it could strengthen legal assistance both in capacity and know-how.

State Secretary Knops had advised against this motion during last week’s debate. According to him, it was constitutionally incorrect for the Dutch government to arrange a strengthening of the legal assistance as this was a matter of the autonomous country Curaçao and that Dutch assistance was only possible if the country involved requested such.

Source: The Daily Herald