photo: Tim van Dijk

PHILIPSBURG – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has once more given the Kingdom a reprimand for the detention circumstances in Sint Maarten. Another detainee has been held for longer than the allowed ten days in a police station cell.

Friday, one day after the decision of the ECHR, the local judge, together with the Office for the Public Prosecutor decided to transfer A.N.J. to the Pointe Blanche prison. His lawyer, Sjamira Roseburg, says that he is dealing with psychiatric issues. A.N.J. had been detained in a police station cell in Phillipsburg since December 6th 2019. “Pointe Blanche is not the right place for him and the police station cells aren’t that either”, says Roseburg.

Acute cell shortage
There’s an acute cell shortage in the Pointe Blanche prison which is the reason why detainees can’t be transferred from the police station cells. Besides this, there is no room to treat detainees who are suffering from mental health issues, the Office for the Public Prosecutor confirms. The Mental Health Foundation is one option but they can’t take on everyone because they only have one closed off cell. There is however a probation office that guides former inmates.

Photo: Pixabay

Office for Public Prosecutor Sint Maarten has no options

“Unfortunately there are a few instances of cases during the past years where the Public Prosecutor wanted to request tbs, if they had the legal possibility to do so. A lot of those cases resulted in long prison sentences”, the Public Prosecutor told Caribbean Network in 2019.

The situation in the police station cells came to light when casino boss Francesco Corallo spent six months in one of them and started a case at the European Court. Corallo won that case and the Kingdom of the Netherlands received a reprimand. The Kingdom has been under the supervision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe ever since.

The Kingdom also received a reprimand in 2016 for the James Murray case. He was imprisoned for 33 years without treatment for his antisocial personality disorder. Psychiatric treatment during lifelong sentences are a right.

Rather be in a police station cell than at home

For detainees with psychiatric problems on Sint Maarten, the police station cells are the only option. Detainees would rather stay there, because most of them no longer have a home. On Friday, A.N.J. pleaded with the court to say that he would rather remain in detention than return home, says Roseburg.

 ‘The only solution is to distribute Sint Maarten’s inmates within the Kingdom’
-attorney Sjamira Roseburg

The police station cells are not meant to hold individuals for a longer period of time, says attorney Sjamira Roseburg, and according to her they are not even suited for shorter periods of detention. “Certain amenities and requirements need to be met for that, which are not present in this particular complex. My client is locked up in a police station cell which doesn’t have running water. Why can’t we learn from our mistakes?”

According to the attorney the only option is to distribute the inmates within the Kingdom, until a new prison has been built. “Bonaire has a brand new prison. I don’t understand why my client can’t be held there.”

No possibility for tbs
A.N.J is unfit to stand trial and is suspected of assaulting someone with a weapon. Roseburg: “He really needs help. They immediately knew this after his arrest in December.” The treatment of prisoners with psychiatric issues on the islands has been a problem for years. There’s the possibility that an individual can get a tbs sentence, but these sentences cannot be carried out. There are no tbs clinics or forensic psychiatric institutions in the Caribbean part of Kingdom.