PHILIPSBURG, WILLEMSTAD - The travel restrictions from Aruba and Curaçao to St. Maarten, which went into effect on Monday, April 5, for a two-week period, have forced the Joint Court of Justice to cancel the trip of judges from Curaçao to St. Maarten for the hearing of appeal cases here.
Prior to this decision, penal lawyers expressed their concerns about the continuation of appeal cases to be adjudicated in April by judges flying in from Curaçao. With an eye on public health and public order, the lawyers requested that the April hearings be cancelled.
“At the moment that the decision was taken to continue with the hearings – after considering all the interests at stake and deliberation with the local health authorities in both St. Maarten and Curaçao – the governmental decision to close the borders was not yet in place. As that is the case now and the flights have been cancelled, there is no other choice but to cancel the trip,” Joint Court acting spokesperson Desi Dijkhuizen said in a statement on Saturday.
“In individual cases, based on the stage in which each case is, the appeal judges will decide whether either videoconferencing might be a viable method to proceed, or that the hearing in said cases should be cancelled at all,” Dijkhuizen added.
Several major cases were planned for hearings this month, including those against former Members of Parliament (MPs) Silvio Matser, Frans Richardson, Theodore Heyliger and Claudius Buncamper. Also planned are appeal hearings in a number of murder and manslaughter cases, such as in the so-called “Mars” and “Lamantijn” investigations.
According to the spokesperson for the lawyers involved, attorney-at-law Cor Merx of the Association for Penal Law Scholars, the magnitude of several major cases in no way justifies treatment via video links.
“The connections between the countries [St. Maarten and Curaçao – Ed.] are bad. This does not benefit the defence’s interest. All the more since during a recent court hearing the video connection broke down and the counsel no longer had any connection with Curaçao, so that a colleague from the Netherlands had to take over and finish the hearing. The proposal is, therefore – short and sweet – to set new dates, but in good consultation with us, to discuss the progress of cases.”