Published On: Tue, Feb 8th, 2022

Twenty-year old conviction valid reason to block Eduard Braam’s nomination as minister of justice

WILLEMSTAD — Old sins cast long shadows. That became once more clear from a court ruling against MFK-parliamentarian Eduard Braam’s attempt to wipe a 20-year old conviction for a sexual offense off the books so that it would no longer stand in the way of his nomination and subsequent appointment as minister of justice.

On April 8, 2002, Braam, who worked at the time as a physician in the Netherlands, had sex with a 16-year old patient, a girl with psychological problems. Initially, the court sentenced him to 12 months of imprisonment, with 6 months suspended, but a higher court decided differently. On May 3, 2002, it found Braam guilty of the charges but it did not impose a prison sentence or any other punitive measure. The court ruled that the defendant did not have a criminal record and that the matter had already caused considerable damages to his reputation.

Braam argued that the ruling cannot stand in the way of his appointment as a minister. The court did not impose a prison sentence so there was no condemnation, his attorney Hubert Braam pointed out.

But no, the court ruled. That’s not how it works: “A condemnation is a ruling whereby a defendant had been found guilty of a crime. Punishment does not determine whether or not there is a condemnation.”

Braam’s attorney also argued that a conviction dating back to 2002 should no longer  have been registered in judicial documentation. The court ruled against this argument. Braam was sentenced based on Dutch law. The term for removing a sentencing from the judicial documentation is determined by the maximum penalty for a given crime. For crimes that carry a prison sentence of less than 6 years, that term is 20 years, for crimes that carry a maximum sentence of more than 6 years it is 30 years and for sexual offenses it is 80 years.

The plaintiff referred to a draft national ordinance for the promotion of integrity among candidate-ministers that sets a time limit of 10 years on the registration of sentences. The court notes in its ruling that the status of this draft law is unclear and that it is questionable whether it will ever become law. It also wondered whether a time limit without making a distinction about the nature of crimes and the maximum penalty they carry “does justice to the intended protection of the integrity of the government.”

In its conclusion, the court ruled that it cannot declare that the plaintiff was not sentenced according to the stipulations in the national ordinance that promotes the integrity of ministers.

Reviewing the question whether a candidate-minister’s background stands in the way of a ministerial nomination belongs to the domain of political decision making, the court ruled.

It nevertheless reached the conclusion that it cannot rule that the defendant can be nominated, or appointed, as minister of justice.

Braam is currently a member of parliament in the MFK-faction. Prime Minister Gilmar Pisas now functions as minister of justice.