PHILIPSBURG–The Prosecutor’s Office has joined the injunction filed last month by residents Barbara Cannegieter and Camiel Koster and law firm Bergman Zwanikken Snow Essed (BZSE) against Country St. Maarten, the Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning Environment and Infrastructure VROMI and current management company of the sanitary landfill on Pond Island Robelto and Son B.V. in Sucker Garden.
In the injunction, which was heard last week Thursday, parties requested that the Court order government and the dump operator to take effective measures to prevent the emission of smoke, gases and stench at the landfill within three months following a ruling.
In a letter sent to the Court of First Instance on Monday, the Prosecutor’s Office says that, according to the Code of Civil Procedure, it is entitled to examine all books, documents and other data carriers and to be present at any Court hearing.
Based on this same provision, the Prosecutor’s Office may, at the request of the Court or another party, also introduce books, documents or other data carriers in the proceedings. The Prosecutor’s Office now wishes to use this power in the dumpsite injunction.
In April the Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal investigation into the situation at the dump.
“We view the current situation at the dump as a crime, where as a result the health of residents in the community and our environment is being affected. This is unacceptable. Therefore, we will be analysing waste streams, we will be conducting measurements, we will assess legal roles and responsibilities, and we will enforce criminal law by prosecuting relevant parties,” the Prosecutor’s Office said in response to the dump fire of August 8.
The Prosecutor’s Office is combining its efforts with those of the Police Force of St. Maarten, the Fire Department, the Inspectorates of the Ministries of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI and Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA, and various stakeholders in society.
The Prosecutor’s Office stated in Monday’s letter to the Court that the investigation will take a long time and will be developed step by step. In the first phase, an inventory will be made of all waste flows and – related to these – what substances harmful to human health may be released in the event of incomplete combustion.
Based on interim findings, a measurement plan will be drafted during which the Prosecutor’s Office wants to carry out measurements at selected times and locations for a longer period of time. In collaboration with VSA, an expert report on the measurement results will be drafted and placed against the background of an emission framework.
Parallel to this phase, an analysis will be made of relevant legal tasks and responsibilities, whereby the Prosecutor’s Office said it will consider Supreme Court case law with regard to criminal liability of the government, but on the other hand also the obligation of the State to protect the right to life as laid down in Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as set out in detail by the European Court of Human Rights.
On the basis of research results thus obtained, further in-depth investigations will be carried out, the Prosecutor’s Office stated.
“The importance of the discovery of truth is served by the fact that the Prosecutor’s Office can also use the information that litigants have or will bring to the proceedings. Now that the government of St. Maarten has asserted the proposition that measurements have been made that have produced the image that no harmful health effects are to be expected, the Prosecutor’s Office also wants to ensure that the Judge who has to cut the knot in the civil case will be fully and correctly informed.
“On this basis, I request that you give the Prosecutor’s Office access to all documents relating to this case and inform the Prosecutor of the [coming – Ed.] session dates,” the Prosecutor’s Office stated in its letter to the Court, a copy of which was obtained by The Daily Herald.
The Prosecutor’s Office confirmed on Thursday that the letter by which the Prosecutor’s Office formally joins the dumpsite injunction was sent to the Court. This would not only give the Prosecution the opportunity to obtain and provide information, but would also allow the Prosecutor to inform the Court about his opinion concerning the legal issue at hand.
The Prosecutor’s Office said the Court of First Instance had confirmed receipt of the request to join the injunction.
The Judge said during last week’s injunction hearing that a roadmap for the prevention of fires and the emanation of smoke, gases and foul smell at the landfill should be ready and signed by VROMI Minister Miklos Giterson by the end of this week. The roadmap has to include concrete steps to reduce the number of landfill fires.
Also, the results of measurements of the air quality carried out by the Ministry of Defence at and around the landfill must be made public. Monthly updates must keep the Court abreast of the state of affairs concerning the solving of problems at the dump.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/81356-prosecutor-s-office-to-join-dump-injunction