Published On: Mon, Jun 17th, 2024

Partial victory for Minister Cooper in lawsuit against political rival

WILLEMSTAD — The Court in First Instance has forbidden Elvis de Andrade and the political party Union i Progreso (UP) to make a video that contains threats against Minister Charles Cooper (Traffic, Transport and Urban Planning) publicly accessible. The party has to remove the video from its Facebook-page. The UP published the unabridged text of the court verdict on its Facebook-page on June 13.

Cooper initiated a lawsuit against De Andrade because of the threats. In the video, De Andrade holds up a bull’s eye with bullet holes and says among other things about Cooper: “He is a dirty thief who has sex with other women” and “If you want war you better make sure that you are ready if you point a gun at me because I will not hesitate to react,” adding for good measure: “I can shoot very well.”

The court ruled that the threatening texts are unlawful and forbids De Andrade and the UP to make the contested video publicly accessible. Violating the court ruling carries a penalty of 5,000 guilders ($2,793) per day with a maximum of 100,000 guilders ($55,866).

The court rejected Cooper’s request to forbid Andrade to publish inflammatory, violent or libelous statements about him in the future. Such statements can only be judged after they have been made, the court ruled.

The video disappeared from public view after the court ruling but the UP continues to criticize Minister Cooper.

In a post published on June 14 the UP claims that an investigation into Cooper shows that the outcome of his screening is not positive. The document, which is marked with the term confidential at the bottom of the page, lists five grievances and opens with the statement that the investigation contains “facts and circumstances that represent potential security risks”. Among the grievances is the claim that Robbie dos Santos paid Cooper 400,000 guilders for obtaining a large piece of land at Playa Bou and Abou at a time when Gerrit Schotte was Commissioner of Tourism. Other allegations against Cooper  have to do with services provided to investor Boy Luckert, his (alleged) appointment at a new department of the Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company PDVSA and his involvement with the foundation SPF-CORI; this foundation requested a right of long lease for a parcel of land in Knip for speculation purposes.


Freedom of expression

By Hilbert Haar

The ruling in the lawsuit Curacao’s Minister Charles Cooper brought against Elvis de Andrade and (by extension) against the political party Union i Progreso has once more made a few things clear about the right to freedom of expression.

Some people fail to understand that this freedom does not mean that you can just say anything you want. There are limits to the freedom of expression. For instance, I cannot write that Minister X is a crook, that Minister Y is a swindler or that Minister Z is a pedophile if I am unable to back up such statements. It is also against the law to threaten people with violence or to incite others to commit violence.

Freedom of expression is one of the great rights citizens have in a constitutional democracy. Have a look at the following example. During a protest against Black Pete in Amsterdam, activist Abulkasim Al-Jabeeri shouted: “Fuck the monarchy, fuck the royal family, fuck the king, fuck the queen.”

The office of the public prosecutor initially wanted to prosecute the activist for lèse-majesté. In plain English: for insulting the king or his family. But the prosecutors later dropped the case because Al-Jabeeri had made his statement “within the context of public debate.”

There is yet another possibility. Suppose someone had an affair with Queen Máxima during the absence of King Willem-Alexander. But when the two lovers are busy, they suddenly hear the door open, announcing the unexpected return of the king. In that case, the lover could exclaim: “Fuck, the king” and get away with it. (The comma in this exclamation makes all the difference).

What Elvis de Andrade did in Curacao is however something completely different. Holding up a bull’s eye riddled with bullet holes and announcing that Cooper better be ready because you shoot very well is obviously crossing a line into a place where you cannot go.

Criticizing a minister for something he did (or did not do) is another matter and jurisprudence makes clear that in such cases people have a lot of freedom to express themselves.

Or, as the ruling in the Cooper-lawsuit says: ‘In a democracy there must be space for statements that are hurtful, shocking or disturbing.”