Four men were sentenced to community service and payment of damages for beating up an allegedly notorious thief, whom one of the aggressors said he had witnessed stealing from the garage of two brothers in the group. They called it a citizen’s arrest, but that is only allowed when an offender is caught red-handed, not after the fact.
Needless to say, excessive violence is clearly forbidden. Using the suspect basically as a punching bag would certainly seem to fall into that category.
That he had apparently stolen from the business many times for a claimed total value of US $11,735 makes the defendants’ actions more understandable, but not acceptable. They are lucky to get off with a slap on the wrist and a bill to pay, because had the victim’s injuries been serious or – worse – life-threatening, things could have ended quite differently.
The fact remains that even delinquents, including of the revolving-door kind, have rights. Taking matters into one’s own hands is simply wrong and can have far-reaching consequences for all parties involved, so physically dealing with criminals is usually best left to law enforcement authorities.
Coincidentally, there is currently a vacancy for the highest such official in the land, namely the attorney-general of Curaçao and St. Maarten. It would be nice if someone –obviously qualified – on the islands could fill this important position for a change, as was the case in the former Netherlands Antilles with Dick Piar, Robert Pietersz, Luis Nahr and others.
It is alright to bring in a European Dutchman to head the prosecution, as strict impartiality is required. Still, knowing and understanding the local culture can help when setting effective policy suited to the reality on the ground.
Besides, any self-respecting territory wants to see more of its people – if capable – holding key positions and there is in principle nothing wrong with that.