Cockfights, prostitution and early release on the line Constitutional Court rules this afternoon

POSTED: 08/15/13 12:58 PM

St. Maarten – In a surprise move, the Constitutional Court will pronounce its verdict this afternoon in the case of the Ombudsman against the government of St. Maarten. Originally the verdict was planned for September 30. The court session begins at 1.30 p.m. in the downstairs courtroom. The Constitutional Court will convey its ruling via video conferencing.

During the historical first public session of the Constitutional Court on July 2, the Ombudsman presented several articles from the draft penal code for constitutional review.

Ombudsman Dr. Nilda Arduin who has sole discretion over submitting legislation to the Constitutional Court for review submitted in January several articles of the new penal code for annulment. The most eye-catching articles are about an exemption to the ban on the ill-treatment of animals that makes organized cock fights legal under a (still to be devised) permit system and the imposition of higher punishments for committing crimes against tourists.

Other topics the ombudsman brought to the court’s attention are rules for early release of foreigners and illegals and the withdrawal of an article that entitles convicts with a life sentence to a review of their punishment after twenty years.

The hottest issue in July was an article that stipulates that prostitution is punishable “unless a permit has been issued by the Minister of Justice.”

The Ombudsman is of the opinion that the article does not protect the sex- workers but the pimps. “A third party is licensed to exploit others for personal gain,” she pointed out, adding that her objections are not about morality but about legality.

The Ombudsman also made reference to Emancipation Day and the abolition of slavery. “Our legislators fail to see the similarity with slavery,” she said. “Legalizing prostitution this way infringes on the personal integrity of women; they are made into a commodity. The majority of women come from marginal groups.”

The Ombudsman wants to keep prostitution punishable under the law.

The rulings of the Constitutional Court are final: appeals are not possible.



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