BOB-legislation (Use of Special Investigation Methods)

POSTED: 12/21/11 9:44 AM

The draft ordinance for the use of special investigation methods, the so-called BOB-legislation, took center stage again yesterday afternoon in a Central Committee meeting. The Bar Association’s dean, Bert Hofman, presented the legal community’s opinion about the proposed measures.

From an attorney’s point of view, it is understandable that there is a call for a careful balance and for proper procedures. After all, attorneys are there to defend the interest of their clients.

But what we do not understand is how Members of Parliament keep whining about possible privacy-violations while, in our opinion, the legislation offers decent rules against abuse. That not everything will go right every time is a fact of life. And when law enforcement makes procedural mistakes, the court will look at the particular case at hand and decide about the consequences. If defendants are not happy with the court ruling, they have the option to appeal, and the appeals court may come to an entirely different conclusion.

A careful balance between the need for these investigation methods and the right to privacy. That is as far as Members of Parliament will go with the BOB-legislation. We have pointed out before that it almost feels like Members of Parliament feel the need to protect themselves against the possible deployment of these methods against them at some point in the future.

We don’t want to keep hammering on the same example per se, but it is the only example we have: the structural observation law enforcement deployed against MP Louie Laveist in the bribery investigation in 2008. The appeals court ruled that there was no legal basis for it and because excluding thus obtained evidence did not benefit the defendant, the judges decided to make Laveist’s 6-month prison sentence fully conditional.

We’d think that this is a rather favorable outcome – an example that shows that when push comes to shove citizens – and even criminal suspects – do not have too much to fear from all this in terms of consequences.

This is why we do not understand that parliamentarians are not embracing this legislation as a useful tool in the fight against organized crime. Drug cases are notoriously complicated to investigate and some of the methods the BOB-legislation offers come in more than handy. We have seen this past year how a whole bunch of people were killed – some of them suspects in drug cases, and others closely linked to the circle of drug pushers on our island.

With the proper tools at their disposal, the police could probably have arrested a bunch of these people before somebody blew them to Kingdom come. Let’s not forget that shootings on occasion cause collateral damage; when bullets start flying innocent bystanders may get hurt. That this has not happened so far does not mean it could not happen in the future.

There is every reason for our parliament to speed up the approval of this legislation. And certainly, they have to make sure that there are sufficient guarantees against abuse. The BOB-legislation is not designed to harass law-abiding citizens; it is designed to give law enforcement better tools to go after the bad guys. Somehow, most of our MPs seem to have forgotten this.

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