The Daily Herald reports that the Dutch Government and the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba should assume a more proactive approach to improve human rights for the people of the Caribbean Netherlands. The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights states this in a report that was published on Monday, titled “To a human rights acceptable level of provisions (“voorzieningenniveau”) for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba” in reaction to the October 2015 report of the Caribbean Netherlands Evaluation Committee.
The Human Rights Institute concluded that there is much room for improvement in the area of social
security, work and income, children’s rights, safety and criminal law on the three islands. Concrete agreements are needed based on human rights norms to realise improvements in these areas.
Improvements for the social policy are especially needed. “The poverty problem is extensive and farreaching on the Caribbean islands. To combat poverty, the Dutch Government needs to explicitly
guarantee its obligations stemming from economic, social and cultural rights,” the institute stated. “This means that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment has to set a standard for the social minimum. The level of social allowances has to be reassessed, and where needed adapted from a human rights position.” The institute made a number of concrete recommendations in its 32-page report which has been sent to the involved governments.
The institute urged the Dutch Government to carefully apply the equality principle assessment framework each time a new statutory or policy measure is formulated and to include a statement of reasons in the accompanying documents. It was recommended to communicate and consult with the island governments in a timely manner.
The Dutch Government was recommended to, in close coordination with the islands, add the specific standards for the level of provisions to the 2015-2018 Multi-Year Programmes of the islands, with the inclusion of human-rights standards.
Government needs to become more active in observing its obligations arising from economic, social and cultural rights. In particular, it is to establish a reference point for the social minimum required for a decent standard of living in the Caribbean Netherlands as soon as possible.
The Dutch Government needs to keep investing in the children of the Caribbean Netherlands to ensure
that the children’s rights are guaranteed as quickly and completely as possible. Investments should not
just focus on Bonaire, but also on the smaller, more isolated St. Eustatius and Saba, according to the human rights organisation. Tackling poverty should be a top priority.
Pertaining to the safeguarding of the applying of criminal law, the institute called upon the Dutch Government to modify the detention facilities in St. Eustatius in the short term, to ensure a constant presence of the Prosecutor’s Office in St. Eustatius and Saba in order to be able to provide a more tailored approach.
The replacement frequency of key police personnel in St. Eustatius and Saba should be decreased, the
video conferencing equipment in St. Eustatius improved, the remuneration for duty lawyers increased, as well as an increase of the threshold value for the eligibility for free legal assistance to US $14,000- 15,000.
The judicial youth policy agenda should be published soon to allow its implementation in the near future. Further research into the punishment regime on the islands should be conducted. Also more alternative punishments like community punishment orders and an increased capacity for social rehabilitation should be strived for.
The island governments must be empowered to increase the local observance of human rights. Awareness of the meaning of human rights should be increased by: providing human rights lessons in schools, organising campaigns to educate the people, and offering training courses for professionals
in law enforcement, healthcare, education or general administration sectors.
Possibilities for easily accessible legal protection, for example through the establishment of a Legal
Services Counter, should be looked at. The human rights organisation called for the establishing of a
committee where people can file an appeal against decisions made by the Correctional Institution Caribbean Netherlands Complaints Committee.
Furthermore, the organisation recommended to increase the capacity of the National Ombudsman
for the Caribbean Netherlands, and to also look into the possibilities to increase the authority of the Human Rights Institute itself to allow it to fulfil its mandate with respect to the Caribbean Netherlands.