Ministry of Justice responds to complaints filed regarding the search of suspects

December 7, 2022 4:44 pm

Philipsburg – The Ministry of Justice values informing the public about the circumstances of the complaints made by arrested suspects concerning the searches of their bodies in the police station. Due to the fact that the criminal cases are still ongoing, a substantive response about these cases is not possible, so as not to obstruct the course of justice.

In general, an arrested suspect may be subjected to an examination of the clothing, body, and even inside the body according to the Code of Criminal Procedure and the official police instructions (ambtsinstructie), including upon detainment in a cell for safety reasons and to be able to seize illegal or dangerous materials that a suspect may have hidden. Examination of clothing may also include partial undressing. As the searches on and inside the body concern personal integrity, these searches may only be carried out when an (assistant) public prosecutor or examining magistrate determines that this search type is necessary for the investigation and the safety of all concerned, and so justifiable reasons warrant this type of search.

Following complaints filed, an internal investigation was immediately launched by the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Police Force of Sint Maarten (KPSM). The investigation focused on the complaints filed against particular officers, while procedures and policies regarding searches were also reviewed and assessed. As the investigation progressed, all intermediary findings were responded to with immediate measures as this relates to procedures and policies. In this process, the organization was assessed per layer on roles of supervision relating to searches and a reinforcement of the legal requirements to be fulfilled when searches are conducted. While the final results of the internal investigation have not yet been formulated, to substantiate the further (disciplinary) measures to be taken, the investigation did indicate that the procedures set by law were not fully followed for the type of search conducted with the complainants. The apology extended underscored the acknowledgment that a procedure was not fully followed.

As it relates to the accusations of lewd acts and acts of tort committed by the officers in question during the searches, the completion of the internal- and criminal investigations has to be awaited.

While the aforementioned processes are ongoing which is restricting the release of further details at this time, the management of KPSM has in its meetings and in team meetings handled these complaints through every segment of the organization. The update of the search protocol and retraining on search requirements and methods for officers have also been followed up with a workshop for assistant public prosecutors, held by the Public Prosecutors office.

The Ministry of Justice stands for the values of the rule of law and the rights of suspects in the criminal process. The authorities assigned to the police officers regarding the search of suspects must be properly implemented and adhered to, in the interest of both the criminal process and the safety of suspects and police officers. With the measures taken so far, the Minister of Justice is confident that respective protocols and legal framework that are in place for investigative authorities will be adhered to and this transgression of authority will not occur again. Upon the conclusion of the investigations, the public shall be further updated.