The Law Enforcement Council concluded in a recent report that crime victims in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba have fewer rights than victims in the Netherlands. Harmonisation of these rights is needed.
The Law Enforcement Council already assessed the system of providing assistance to victims in the Caribbean Netherlands in 2012, and repeated this investigation in 2018. A number of the sticking points from 2012 still exist.
The Council had praise for the active Victim Support Bureau in the Caribbean Netherlands which has an involved staff. However, the victims have fewer rights on the islands. Harmonisation of these rights will mean an important step has been taken, the Council stated.
Dutch Minister of Legal Protection Sander Dekker stated in a reaction he sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament earlier this week that he too considered proper attention for the victim in criminal law and good victim care of great importance.
He was content with the Law Enforcement Council’s conclusion that the subject received attention in the Caribbean Netherlands. “Explicit steps forward have been made since the previous report of the Council. But I do realise that there are subjects that require improvement.”
Dekker supports the Council’s recommendation to improve the reporting process for victims, as this is the starting point for the providing of adequate assistance to victims. He also agreed with the Council’s recommendation to arrange with the Prosecutor’s Office that sentences are executed that involve the payment of damages to the victim.
Dekker further agreed to ensure that there is sufficient legal know-how available at the Victim Support Bureau on the islands. The bureau can count on support from the Netherlands in this matter. The Netherlands Violent Offences Damages Fund will organise training on how to offer support to victims in filing a request.
The Law Enforcement Council further recommended changing the law which would give victims in the Caribbean Netherlands the right to submit a victim declaration, to speak during the Court sessions and to receive an advance from the government in case the defendant does not pay damages.
Dekker agreed to adapt the Caribbean Netherlands Penal Code eventually, but indicated that he would wait until implementation of the new Code of Criminal Procedure (“Wetboek van Strafvordering”) of Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten was approved by the parliaments and subsequently implemented.
The new Code of Criminal Procedure of the three Dutch Caribbean countries includes regulations regarding the victim, such as the right to information about his/her rights, the process of investigation, prosecution and adjudication; the right to see the criminal dossier to ask permission to add documents; the right to be added as an injured party; and the right to speak.
As soon as the new Code of Criminal Procedure is introduced simultaneously in Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten, the minister will promote the implementation of the adapted Code of Criminal Procedure for the Caribbean Netherlands around the same time. “This will largely guarantee the uniformity of the procedural criminal law in the Caribbean part of the kingdom, and as such also the victims’ rights.”
He noted in his letter that the Caribbean Netherlands Prosecutor’s Office, the Caribbean Netherlands Police Force KPCN and the Victim Support Bureau were working on bringing the victim process up to date and to streamline this process.
Dekker confirmed that the Netherlands Victim Support was open to arriving at a cooperation agreement with the Caribbean Netherlands Victim Support Bureau to further professionalise and support the latter organisation.
The Daily Herald.