Structural lack of resources affects court and police force

POSTED: 10/9/15 4:17 PM

St. Maarten – The Judicial Kingdom Acts Evaluation Committee on 8 October submitted its final report to the Ministers of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and The Netherlands. The four Acts concerned (on the Joint Court of Justice, the Public Prosecution Service, the police and the Law Enforcement Council) were drafted in 2010, when the Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist and the new countries of Curaçao and Sint Maarten, as well as the ‘public bodies’ of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (jointly referred to as the Caribbean Netherlands) were founded. The evaluation was conducted as stipulated by the Acts themselves, which prescribe that such evaluation was to take place within five years of their adoption. Key to the evaluation was the working of the Acts in actual practice.

The Committee expresses its appreciation of the amount of work performed in the various countries. Its investigation shows that most Kingdom Acts (except for the Police Kingdom Act) have been implemented almost in full. The Committee emphasizes the dedication of, and energy expended by, all ministries, judicial institutions and other organizations in bringing law enforcement in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to a higher level. The Committee believes the resulting optimism should come to serve as a basis for further development.

The Committee does, however, identify a number of issues to be addressed. These relate to, inter alia, the financial security of a number of judicial institutions (like the Joint Court of Justice and the police), mutual cooperation and arrears in forming legislation. In addressing these issues, the Committee has made 20 recommendations. These concern, inter alia, increasing the available financial resources, making better use of the opportunities already provided by the Kingdom Acts, stepping up collaboration and accepting and respecting one another’s differences.

The Committee considers the structural lack of financial resources to be an obstacle in various areas, particularly as concerns the Court and the police. It bears investigating to what extent these financial problems are the result of overly optimistic estimates of the funds required made in 2010. The Court is also negatively impacted by the deficient payment discipline of the various countries. As a number of countries fail to pay their dues in time, or at all, the Court at times needs to take ’emergency measures’ to pay its staff. The Committee notes that the financial responsibility for the structural costs of important government bodies lies with the countries themselves.

Cooperation between the countries is a key issue. In some areas, it is properly implemented; in others, less so. An example of a positive development is formed by the apparently successful system of consultations between the chief commissioners of police of the various countries. Effecting cooperation between the countries by establishing a Joint Police Facility, however, failed to gain traction. As a consequence, it has become more important than ever before for the national police forces and the Criminal Investigation Cooperation Team to cooperate. Such cooperation in particular requires attention in Sint Maarten. The Committee recommends that the Criminal Investigation Cooperation Team be provided with a sound organizational and operational embodiment and with more wide-ranging responsibilities.

The Committee asks that special attention be given to the position of the Dutch language within the law enforcement practice. All legislation in the islands concerned is drawn up in Dutch. However, Dutch is not the most commonly spoken language amongst the population. The Committee therefore recommends that it be investigated in what areas of law enforcement the use of the Dutch language is not strictly necessary. This would allow the citizens of the islands concerned to gain more insight into their own legal systems.

During the evaluation, the Committee discussed the issue of adopting rules for the settlement of disputes. The Committee advocates such adoption. As this issue was separately given attention by way of debates at the Kingdom level, the Committee decided not to make any recommendations in this connection.

The four Kingdom Acts may only be abrogated in mutual consultations between the countries. This raises the question whether the countries should not, as yet, be granted the right to unilaterally abrogate the Kingdom Acts. The Committee in this connection has set out the most important arguments for and against the granting of such a right. It believes both positions to have valid arguments. The Committee recommends that the granting of such a right be considered in due course.

Finally, the question was raised whether all countries comprising the Kingdom should have their own attorney-general (this is not currently the case). The Committee in this connection, too, set out the arguments for and against the notion. It has proposed various alternatives already possible under the present Public Prosecution Service Kingdom Act so as to remove the objections expressed against having a joint attorney-general.

The Committee believes that there should be discussion on the institutional aspects referred to. It believes that the Kingdom Acts are “not cast in concrete” and that they should be considered within a perspective of continuous political development. It should, therefore, be possible to review the Kingdom Acts in due time. This allows for issues like the establishment of multiple procurator generals and the granting of a right of abrogation to be discussed at such a time.

The Committee set aside about a year to carry out the evaluation. In cooperation with the University of Curaçao and Utrecht University, it investigated the working of the Kingdom Acts in practice over the past few years as well as how they were received by the parties involved, including not only the staff employed at law enforcement bodies but also representatives of the Councils of Churches, Chamber of Commerce, etc. The many replies received over the course of the investigation resulted in an investigation report, which is appended to the Committee’s final report as an annex.

Now that the final report has been submitted to the governments and parliaments of the countries concerned, it is up to them to come to an opinion on the matter and shape their conclusions into policy.

The evaluation committee consists of two chairmen, Raymond Begina and Harm Brouwer, Stan Dessens (on behalf of the Netherlands), Luciano Milliard (Aruba), Jacob Wit (St. Maarten) and substitute member Fred Wiel (Curacao).

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