The laws of St. Maarten protect human rights. They, for example, guarantee the rights of due process and forbid cruel and unusual punishments. Over the course of the last 10 years, the governments of St. Maarten have not been able to guarantee the human rights of prisoners.
Various reports by the law enforcement council and progress committee show that there has been no improvement at all, despite various plans. So, one may conclude that all the plans have not yet resulted into action.
In the political arena, it appears that there is only attention for the deplorable situation of detainees once prominent politicians are involved. The rest of the time, there does not seem to be any political concern about the ongoing violations of human rights.
Kingdom laws are also law of the land. There is a particular section in a Kingdom law that states that the Kingdom must safeguard the human rights once a country is structurally not able to uphold those rights. The activation of the so-called “guarantee function” implies limiting the autonomy of the country. The guarantee function may not last forever. The law makes clear that it only lasts for the period of time that the country is not able to carry its responsibility.
For me as Dean of the Bar Association it is evident that at this moment in time, St. Maarten is not able to guarantee the human rights of prisoners. As last week’s court case made clear, a solution cannot be reached without the assistance of the Kingdom.
For that reason, via an attorney, I have sent a letter to the Kingdom Council of Ministers to no longer close their eyes for the deplorable situation of Pointe Blanche and have requested to take proper measures, whether that would be in cooperation with the government of St. Maarten or not.
The motion of Van Dam (see Daily Herald 22 June 2020) also shows that the rest of the Kingdom no longer closes its eyes for the fact that St. Maarten has a lot of trouble protecting human rights.
In closing, I would like to remark that it is my sincere hope that the situation improves quickly. And for those that feel that it concerns a particular infringement on autonomy, I would like to say that it still is up to the independent judge whether or not prison time is imposed.
Dean of the Bar of Lawyers of St. Maarten