~Bar Association wants continued human rights violations stopped~
THE HAGUE–Law enforcement in St. Maarten, in particular the problematic situation at the prison, needs to be part of the negotiations for further financial assistance for St. Maarten from the Netherlands in light of the corona crisis.
That is the opinion of Member of the Second Chamber Chris van Dam of the governing Christian Democratic Party CDA. In his opinion, the Dutch government needs to make the law enforcement in general, and the Pointe Blanche prison in particular, part of the preconditions for financial assistance.
The initial emergency financial assistance that the Kingdom Council of Ministers approved on Thursday to the tune of NAf. 50.2 million was most definitely needed, but in the negotiations to arrive at the financing of the St. Maarten middle-long term plans to tackle the effects of the corona crisis, law enforcement must play a role, said Van Dam.
“As Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops said so adeptly, solidarity within the Kingdom needs to come from both sides. We are definitely one Kingdom and we must help each other,” Van Dam told The Daily Herald on Friday.
“I am content that the Royal Dutch Navy is sending an additional ship to the Caribbean, and that medical equipment and supplies were flown to St. Maarten. The solidarity and cooperation shown by the islands among each other is wonderful to see. I am happy with the expansion of military assistance and the extension of the support by the Dutch National Police in St. Maarten.”
But, added Van Dam, one cannot ignore the fact that a number of things have not been going right. St. Maarten law enforcement, and in particular the prison, is one clear example of that. “If we as the Netherlands are to give further financial support, we must also discuss the conditions regarding law enforcement and the prison,” he said.
The St. Maarten Progress Committee in letter to Minister Knops dated April 1, 2020 once again shared its concern about the lack of action to realise tangible improvements at the prison. In the past five years, the Committee has rendered no less than 32 recommendations to improve the situation at the Pointe Blanche prison (see related article). Unfortunately, very little has happened with these recommendations and conclusions.
According to Dean of the St. Maarten Bar Association Geert Hatzmann, the letter of the Progress Committee and the attached overview of recommendations reconfirmed that good intentions only do not lead to any improvement.
Hatzmann said that the St. Maarten Bar Association did not take the continuing violations of human rights lightly. Lawyers Shaira Bommel and Sjamira Roseburg, on behalf of the Inmates Association, and Dean Hatzmann have filed an injunction against the Country St. Maarten and the St. Maarten Justice Minister to have inmates transferred to another, safer prison in the Kingdom. Due to travel restrictions, this court case is on hold.
“Given the limited liquidity support, I expect that the focus of government will once more not be on improving the circumstances in the prison. That means that the violations of human rights will continue,” said Hatzmann.
The board of the Bar Association is currently exploring avenues to see if the Kingdom can be held accountable for the continuation of the violations. After all, the Kingdom Charter has an obligation to safeguard human rights. As the reports by the Progress Committee and Law Enforcement Council have shown, Country Sint Maarten unfortunately has not been able to fulfil its basic obligations towards its prisoners.
Referring to tying financial aid for St. Maarten to certain conditions, Hatzmann said that, under regular circumstances, the Netherlands could set requirements on how the money was spent and to see to it that the projects were executed in a proper manner.
The list of priorities should most certainly include a modern prison with sufficient personnel, both in quantity and in quality, and where inmates are treated humanely. Also constructed should be a forensic clinic for the treatment of delinquent persons with severe psychological problems.
“If it appears that the available funding has not been used for projects that have been indicated as priorities, then it is only logical that this will have consequences, and that the funding for follow-up projects or phases are frozen,” he said.
Hatzmann emphasised that this counted under normal circumstances, and that the situation was very different now. He said that political games should not be played at the expense of the people, and that the Netherlands in crisis situations should not have financial aid depend on whether the local government follows all instructions. “In case of a crisis, the Netherlands has to offer assistance to prevent humanitarian calamities without any ties. There can be no discussion about that.”
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/st-maarten-prison-should-be-part-of-financial-aid-talks