No class justice at St. Maarten’s prosecutor’s office

POSTED: 10/13/15 5:13 PM

St. Maarten – The Public Prosecutor’s Office in St. Maarten does not deal with high officials differently than with other citizens. That is the main conclusion of the Law Enforcement Council following the investigation concerning possible class justice by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in St. Maarten. The reason for the investigation was the ruling of the Court of First Instance in the so-called “Masbangu” case, in which the court ruled that the prosecutor’s office, had created the semblance of class justice. This was due to the fact that the sellers of votes to the United People’s party were prosecuted, together with a representative of the buying party while UP-leader Theo Heyliger was not even labeled as a suspect.

On appeal the Common Court on Justice concluded overruled this judgment. Now the council comes to the same conclusion. It notes that there are several factors that contribute to forced selectivity in dealing with criminal cases. A very notable factor is the National Ordinance “Prosecution of Political Authorities in St. Maarten”. This ordinance puts restrictions on the Prosecution whereby ministers and Members of Parliament are placed in a different legal and thus in a privileged position compared to the ordinary ‘man in the streets’, says the council.

It notes that this form of selectivity and inequality cannot be held against the Public Prosecutor’s Office and that this office is doing everything within the framework of the law and it acts in an inventive manner to gather proof in criminal cases against high profile suspects. An equally important reason for selectivity in investigation and prosecution is the limited capability of the law enforcement chain in St. Maarten, according to the council. Due to lack of capacity in the police force of St. Maarten, the National Detective Agency (Landsrecherche) and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, priorities need to be set in the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses.

Factors such as the severity and provability of the case and the duration and complexity of the investigation are important factors. Only a limited number of cases can be taken up because of the current capability of the law enforcement chain in St. Maarten. According to the council this causes societal dissatisfaction and contributes to the perception that the Public Prosecutor’s Office in St. Maarten acts selectively and not resolutely. The council also advises the Public Prosecutor’s Office to continue to communicate and educate the public. The Public Prosecutor’s Office acknowledges this need and will continue to work to achieve this goal. The Public Prosecutor’s Office agrees with the conclusions of the Council and endorses the recommendations it presented to the Minister of Justice

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