Today’s Opinion: The world upside down

POSTED: 05/4/11 1:54 PM

We now learn that, while Internet terrorist Judith Roumou uses the worldwide web to insult anybody and everybody, the penal code does not offer options to put a stop to this kind of behavior. That knowledge will probably give Roumou the idea that she is doing nothing wrong by calling all kinds of people all kinds of names. If we printed only one percent of her slanderous rants in this newspaper we would be slaughtered in court – and rightly so.

But Roumou has found,  most likely without knowing it, a legal loophole. The current penal code of St. Maarten does not regulate hacking, stealing of information, impersonating someone on the internet, or invading someone’s privacy.

The new penal code however closes that loophole, and the ones who have to spring into action to make this happen are the members of our parliament.

One may well wonder why the new penal code has not been passed yet. The whole package is there, and all the parliament has to do is put it on the agenda, debate it (or not) and give it its nod of approval.

Julian Rollocks makes a justified plea to the parliament to take action. He is one of Roumou’s victims and he feels shortchanged by the law: the prosecutor’s office could not even prosecute Roumou if it wanted to, because the penal code does not contain the tools it needs for this.

This does obviously not mean that victims of the local Internet terrorist are completely powerless. They could file a complaint to Facebook, or to any provider that gives Roumou the platform for her slanderous activities.

And they could drag the lady into court in summary proceedings demanding that she stops immediately with her activities. Such a  procedure could be linked to a penalty for not complying with a court verdict.

But Rollocks is currently hesitant to follow that route. If criminal prosecution for stealing his information, for invading his privacy, for defaming his character and for impersonating him on the internet is not covered by the penal code, what is a judge in summary proceedings going to say about this? A defeat in court would only embolden Roumou, and that is the last thing Rollocks – or anybody else for that matter – needs at this moment.

The key is clearly in the hands of the parliament. Once it approves the new penal code, Rollocks and others who have a beef with Internet terrorist Roumou, are standing on much firmer ground.

Sooner or later, a court will define the limits to Roumou’s freedom of speech. And for her many victims, that moment will not arrive soon enough. Until that time, we’ll have to experience the world upside down, whereby citizens from all walks of life run the risk to become the target of a slanderous Internet-attack.

 

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