Semblance of order

Semblance of order

That Dutch Second Chamber of Parliament member Chris van Dam is worried about conditions at the Philipsburg police station holding cells (see Saturday story) comes as no big surprise. After all, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) last month once more declared the long-term detention of a person there unlawful.

As with a similar case involving casino boss Francesco Corallo, it’s the Kingdom of the Netherlands that is held responsible internationally for such transgressions. In fact, the European Union (EU) country was already placed under heightened supervision at the time.

The Prosecutor’s Office had earlier itself set a 10-day limit for keeping persons in the cells but during the local court case argued that improvements since made them adequate for pre-trial custody again. The European magistrates apparently didn’t buy the latter and a forced release was only prevented by moving the detainee to the prison at Pointe Blanche.

However, that facility too is only at limited capacity due to the current circumstances and container cells brought in to alleviate the situation are yet to be put into use. The reality is that – be it carefully selected – suspects and convicts who would normally be locked up are now walking the streets.

There are also indications of serious supervision issues, should a story told by defendants on trial for human smuggling less than a week ago prove true: They claim being kidnapped and threatened with weapons inside the penitentiary, while a relative was intimidated to pay ransom, all without any interference from guards.

Authorities considered the complaint serious enough to question and arrest several detainees. The judge requested a report and statements made on the incident, so more about what did or didn’t happen may become known during the next hearing scheduled for February 5.

If something like this could indeed happen inside the prison, it begs the question who is really in charge. It seems evident that those called on to do so need to take firm control and restore at least a semblance of order.