Published On: Fri, Jun 19th, 2020

Court denies demand for transfer of inmates to the Netherlands

Police patrolling A.C. Wathey Square - 20191211 JH

PHILIPSBURG – The Court in First Instance has declared inadmissible the demand by a group of Pointe Blanche inmates that the country transfers them to safer prisons, either in the Netherlands or Bonaire. The plaintiffs now have to split the cost of the procedure (1,500 guilders) between them.

Initially, 37 inmates joined the court procedure in February, but seven of them withdrew after their release.

The inmates complained about the conditions in the prison in a letter to Justice Minister Jurendy Doran on February 17. “Tensions between inmates and staff are running high due to the overpopulated prison. The inmates’ feeling of safety within the prison walls has decreased significantly and they fear for their lives every day,” their attorneys Geert Hatzmann, Shaira Bommel and Sjamira Roseburg wrote. “There is permanent danger for the inmates that fall under your responsibility. Enough is enough.”

The letter furthermore refers to serious incidents over the past several years. “Violence within the prison is the order of the day. Several inmates have been stabbed or injured seriously, one detainee is permanently handicapped and one has even been shot to death.” The latter remark refers to the fatal shooting of gang leader Omar Jones in 2016.

When the minister did not honor the request, the inmates took their case to court, demanding transfer to a safe prison elsewhere in the kingdom until the safety and security situation in the Pointe Blanche prison has reached an acceptable level. The inmates also want the CPT or another committee of experts to monitor the prison conditions. All this under threat of a penalty of $1,000 per day (with a maximum of $10 million) for every day the minister does not comply with the demands.

But the court found against the plaintiffs: “It is justified for the minister of justice (currently Anna Richardson) to point out that the demands have to be declared inadmissible.” The ruling refers to a Supreme Court ruling of September 30, 2016. It states that only natural persons and legal entities have access to civil law proceedings unless there is an exemption based on the law. “Such an exemption does not exist,” the court ruled.

This decision made all other arguments moot. The attorney for the minister of justice, Aernout Kraaijeveld, told the court that granting the demands would put the country in an impossible position because it requires the cooperation of the Netherlands. “If it is impossible for a defendant to comply with the demand, it has to be denied.”

The court agreed with this argument, ruling that the Netherlands is not a party to the proceedings and therefore not bound by any ruling.

The remaining thirty defendants now have to bear the costs of the proceedings: 1,500 guilders, or 50 guilders each.

###

Relevant documents:
Court ruling
Press release Prosecutor’s Office