photo: Caribisch Netwerk

THE HAGUE – Minister Raymond Knops of the Interior and Kingdom Relations is ‘extremely worried about the situation within the detention facilities on Sint Maarten’. But at the same time he emphasizes that ‘Sint Maarten should be the one to take measures to improve the situation’.

 The minister replied to questions posed by CDA-MP Chris van Dam in January, regarding the deplorable conditions in which individuals are detained on Sint Maarten, in a letter on Tuesday. The reason for this was another reprimand from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for the treatment of detainees on the island.

According to the European Court, Sint Maarten violates article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) by detaining individuals for longer than the allotted period of time in police station cells.

Public Prosecutor: no human rights violated
According to the Office of the Public Prosecutor for Sint Maarten ‘ a number of improvements have been made’. “Those improvements are not up to par with what each party involved would like to see, but it is an improvement compared to the situation during the time in which Corallo was detained.”

The Kingdom was reprimanded by the European Court in 2018 because Sint Maarten had detained Francesco Corallo and held him for a period of six months in a police station cell with no ventilation or daylight.

The Public Prosecutor believes that because the situation has improved, the decision of the European Court ‘cannot be interpreted as a judgement on the violation of human rights’.

Extreme concerns remain
Even with the ‘improvements’ that the Public Prosecutor mentions, the political parties in the Hague remain extremely concerned. The CDA even thinks that the Public Prosecutor is ‘knowingly testing the limits of the maximum period of detention in police station cells’. “Because they have to do this in certain harrowing situations and to bring visibility to the issue. And rightfully so.”

The Public Prosecutor brushes this off as a ‘rumor’ and says that it assesses each and every case where an individual has to spend more than 10 days in a police station cell in Phillipsburg on a case by case basis and that it searches for a fitting solution.

Will The Hague intervene?
According to the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the ‘protection of human rights is a matter for the Kingdom’ and the Hague could intervene if Sint Maarten doesn’t get its affairs in order. But nothing points to that as of yet.

Minister Knops says that ‘he maintains regular contact with the minister of Justice and the Prime Minister of Sint Maarten’. “Where we express the urgency of the situation and strongly request that appropriate measures be taken.”

And with that, the ball seems to be in Sint Maarten’s court for now.