Council of Europe anti-torture committee issues report on the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
STRASBOURG – The Council of Europe anti-torture committee (CPT) today published a report on its May 2014 visit to the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In its visit to Bonaire, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, the CPT found progress in a number of issues, but also concluded that the authorities need to make additional efforts to fully implement its recommendations.
In Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten the CPT received some allegations of ill-treatment by individuals arrested by the police, usually consisting of kicks and punches to the body after the person had been handcuffed. The Committee also received some allegations of ill-treatment at the Correctional Institution in Aruba (KIA), SDKK and Point Blanche Prison in Sint Maarten. In these three prisons,inter-prisoner violence continued to be a serious threat to prisoners’ safety.
The CPT reminds the authorities that a clear message should be delivered to police and prison officers that ill-treatment will not be tolerated and will be punished accordingly.
In the report, the CPT recommends reducing the duration of remand detention on police premises, ensuring the right of access to a lawyer from the very outset of deprivation of liberty, and that individuals concerned are able to notify a third party of their arrest.
Material conditions were poor in many of the police stations visited as well as in Block 1 at SDKK prison. The CPT stresses that, in Aruba and Curaçao, the current practice of keeping detained persons deemed to be at risk of suicide naked in their cells should be ended. In Sint Maarten, urgent measures should be taken to improve conditions at Philipsburg Police Station, and steps taken to ensure that persons are not detained in excess of three days. In Curaçao, two persons had been held in police stations for some eight months in conditions akin to solitary confinement. Every effort should be made to find alternative solutions to long-term detention at police stations.
The CPT’s delegation found that the Dutch Caribbean Correctional Institution (JICN) in Bonaire was well-managed and provided a safe environment. Some progress had been made at the three other prisons visited compared to previous visits. However, material conditions were generally very poor at KIA and in several blocks of SDKK, with crumbling walls, dilapidated accommodation areas, leaking pipes and serious sewage problems.
With the exception of JICN Bonaire, high levels of staff absenteeism were noted in prisons, which affected staffing ratios. The CPT identifies a need to recruit additional staff, and to ensure a minimum service for inmates in the event of a strike by staff.
The situation for young persons at JICN was largely positive. By contrast, at KIA, the conditions of detention and activities in place for juveniles were not conducive to developing a supportive environment to assist their educational development and the enhancement of their social skills. The situation of juveniles held on remand at Philipsburg Police Station in Sint Maarten was totally inappropriate. The CPT trusts that the new juvenile detention unit will provide suitable alternative arrangements.
The CPT’s delegation also visited the psychiatric department (PAAZ) at Dr Horacio Oduber Hospital in Aruba and Klínika Capriles in Curaçao with a focus on involuntarily placed patients. Both facilities were considered to be caring, well-run and supportive. However the CPT finds procedures regulating involuntary placement need to be strengthened.
The report was published together with the Dutch authorities’ response.