THE HAGUE--A recent media interview with lawyer Shaira Bommel about the reported “daily violation of human rights” in the St. Maarten prison system has led to in written questions of Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Chris van Dam of the Christian Democratic Party CDA.
Bommel sounded the alarm about the situation at St. Maarten’s detention facilities last month. “The situation is really bad, truly dramatic. There is no rehabilitation at all. Human rights are violated on a daily basis,” Bommel told NTR Caribisch Netwerk mid-July.
Bommel, who has worked on St. Maarten since 2008, has two clients with life sentences, including Aston Lake, who has already been incarcerated for 35 years. “He has become part of the furniture, so to speak. Part of his sentence was a re-socialisation plan but that was never implemented.”
Member of Parliament (MP) Van Dam is seeking clarity from State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops, Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker and Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok.
Van Dam asked the Ministers and State Secretary whether they shared the facts as they were presented by the lawyer. He wanted to know whether it was true that inmates at the Pointe Blanche prison remained locked in their cells 23 hours per day, and whether this counted for all inmates.
The MP inquired whether it was correct that there were barely any possibilities of re-socialisation or psychiatric care at the St. Maarten prison. “Is there a form of rehabilitation or a psychiatric forensic service in St. Maarten, inside or outside the prison? Is it correct that there are only two psychiatrists at Mental Health Foundation and that they are leaving the island?”
Van Dam also asked about the prison capacity. “Is it correct that currently almost no persons are taken into preliminary custody because there is no room at the prison? Is there a form of sending-people-off policy or are all suspects sent off, with or without conditions? What consequences does this have for ongoing investigations or the functioning of the state of law in the general sense?”
The MP expressed his concerns about the situation. “Can you imagine that the CDA is very worried about the described situation, in particular the sending away of new suspects due to the lack of capacity at the prison, especially where it concerns the effectiveness of law enforcement in St. Maarten?”
Van Dam wanted to know whether the Dutch government has set a “sort of bottom limit” regarding the detention situation in St. Maarten, preferably in consultation with the St. Maarten government.
The measures the St. Maarten government needs to take in connection with the increased supervision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe following the ruling in the case of St. Maarten businessman Francesco Corallo, were also a point of concern in Van Dam’s questions.
“Can you indicate whether the planned technical assistance and improvement measures will actually contribute to creating a [detention – Ed.] situation that complies with the norms of the European Human Rights Treaty?”