Last week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) again ordered an interim measure for a suspect being held in pre-trial detention in the Philipsburg cells. This is being wrongly interpreted, by various media outlets, to imply that the ECHR has established that human rights have been violated. The Public Prosecutor’s Office would like to emphasize that this is not the case.

It is an interim measure designed to prevent human rights from being violated. So there is no violation of human rights established as yet. In the case initiated by F. Corallo, the ECHR had ruled that his human rights were violated based on the circumstances in the cells in the Philipsburg police station at that time (2018). In the meantime, a number of improvements have been made. These improvements are not yet at the level that all involved would like to see them. In any case, there have been improvements since the time of Corallo’s detention. As a result, the ECHR’s verdict cannot be interpreted as a ruling on a violation of human rights. The ECHR’s interim measure does not concern the detention conditions in the Pointe Blanche prison.

The suggestion that the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Sint Maarten would provoke the interim injunction of the European Court is untrue. The Public Prosecutor’s Office weighs the options in all cases in which a suspect should remain in pre-trial detention in Philipsburg cells for more than 10 days. This is whether the suspect can be released (whether or not by suspending pretrial detention), or whether space can be created in Pointe Blanche prison by terminating or suspending the pre-trial detention of a suspect who has been detained in Pointe Blanche prison or by recommending a convict for early release.

Early release of convicted persons is an exclusive decision of the Minister of Justice. If both options are not possible, the Chief Public Prosecutor of St. Maarten will consider whether the detention in the Philipsburg cells can continue. The Minister of Justice and the Procurer General will be informed and the cases in which such an assessment takes place will also be published on the website of the Public Prosecutor’s Office Sint Maarten. So far in 2020 there are two separate cases where two suspects will have to remain more than 10 days in the Philipsburg cells.

 

Pre-trial detention prolonged
The Public Prosecutor’s Office recently made a decision to prolong the pretrial detention of 2 suspects in the HvB cells (Philipsburg) for more than 10 days. This decision was communicated to the relevant authorities, along with the following elucidation on the cases in question. The first case concerns D.D.K., a 30 year old young man originally from Suriname, whom is suspected of involvement in the armed robbery of the Econo Supermarket on July 4th, 2019. It is believed that prior to the robbery D.D.K. had telephone contact with the 2 other accomplices, informing them that there was cash in the cash register and that the coast was clear.

The suspect had admitted involvement in the robbery and was sentenced by the court to two years imprisonment. D.D.K. had expressed preference not to stay in the Point Blanche Prison, because of what he had endured in the facility during a previous detention period. As a result D.D.K. has been staying in the cell complex at the police station in Philipsburg since his arrest on July 24th, 2019. Considering the pressure that exists with limited available places in the Pointe Blanche prison, the Chief Prosecutor made a decision to allow D.D.K. stay in the HvB cell in the police station.

The second case concerns suspect N.A.J., a 36 year old man who was arrested for maltreating and threatening his mother. N.A.J. at that time was still on probation with special conditions imposed (counseling from MHF and Turning Point). In May 2019, N.A.J. was convicted for maltreating his mother.

This suspect needs medical treatment, which has been reported on several occasions by various professionals. However the needed treatment is not available on Sint Maarten. Housing the suspect at the MHF was terminated as a result of the suspects aggressive demeanor and Turning Point could not admit the suspect, because of negative drug tests and lack of qualified staff.

Detention is not a good alternative, however because the risk of repetition is high, maximum use is made of pre-trial detention to give all emergency services the opportunity to come up with a good plan for accommodation or outpatient treatment. However, the Public Prosecution Service is dependent on the facilities and assistance that is available and can be provided.

In this case the European Court for Human Rights made the preliminary ruling to prevent violation of human rights. As a result this suspect was moved to the sick bay in the Pointe Blanche prison. Although there is a high risk of re-offending, this suspect will be released in the short term, because the seriousness of his offences cannot justify the duration of his detention for much longer.