Thursday , January 26 2023

Attorney-General calls for inter-insular approach

Prosecutor for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba Henk Jan Starrenburg was officially installed Friday, during a session of the Joint Court of Justice in Bonaire.

Starrenburg arrived in Bonaire in September. He was an Acting Prosecutor in Utrecht, the Netherlands, where he obtained expertise in seizing criminal profits of convicts. Prior to that he was involved with fighting organized crime. He has been appointed in the Caribbean Netherlands for a threeyear period.

Attorney-General Guus Schram (left) with new Prosecutor Henk Jan Starrenburg.
Attorney-General Guus Schram (left) with new Prosecutor Henk Jan Starrenburg.

In his speech, Attorney General Guus Schram pointed out that the Prosecutor’s Office for Bonaire, Statia and Saba is confronted with many big challenges where crime fighting is concerned. He said cooperation between the islands of the Dutch Caribbean is key in keeping the Prosecutor’s Office from “running behind the facts and losing its effectiveness.”

Schram said the Prosecutor’s Offices in St. Maarten, Curaçao and in Bonaire, Statia and Saba are working towards an organisation in which cooperation is central, also with other partners in crime fighting, such as the Joint Court of Justice and the Police.

“Crime fighting is not just everyone on his own, but requires an integral approach,” said Schram.

The Attorney General pointed out that being operational on three dif ferent islands with small communities, “each having their own particularities and vulnerabilities,” the Prosecutor’s Office can only be effective on Bonaire, Statia and Saba when it seeks cooperation with partners.

For example, he pointed at the cooperation with youth rehabilitation Miss Lalie Centre in St. Maarten. “In Bonaire, Statia and Saba we do not have a facility like that, but St. Maarten fortunately does.”

Other forms of cooperation exist in the areas of cybercrime, money-laundering, forensic investigations and the fight against terrorism. “Our organisations are all too small to build all this expertise by themselves. Together, however, we can do it. I consider the development of these forms of cooperation as an important step in making our organisations less vulnerable,” Schram said. He said the Prosecutor’s Offices in the region cannot function without experts such as these and called for an “inter-insular” approach.

He pointed at the multidisciplinary “Take Away Team,” which seizes criminal proceedings from convicted criminals in Curaçao. He made a plea for the establishment of such a team for the entire Dutch Caribbean, “or maybe for the entire kingdom.”

Schram said that due to the small scale of Saba and Statia the Prosecutor’s Office should be visible and efficient. Visibility and quality service are to be improved with the opening of front desks on both islands. A “state-ofthe- art” video connection is to improve communication with prosecutors and other Prosecutor’s Office employees.

New Prosecutor Starrenburg was also addressed by Dean of the Bar Association Anneke van Toll, who called attention to the fact that on Bonaire most crime suspects have a right to a so-called “pro deo” lawyer. The remuneration for these attorneys, who are provided to criminal suspects by government, is US $35 when they are being led in front of an investigating judge and $505 for the entire process leading up to a court hearing. These tariffs were set in 1997, Van Toll said.

The lawyer called attention to the discrepancy between the Prosecutor’s Office’s expansion in recent years and the meagre pay for lawyers, which is especially hurting lawyers representing clients from Saba and Statia, due to the high cost of travel to Bonaire.

The Daily Herald.

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