ORANJESTAD – On Tuesday, the court rejected the proceedings on the merits of a group of Statians versus the Dutch State. This group of politicians brought the matter up when they were deposed after the administrative intervention by the Netherlands in February last year.
Saint Martin’s constitutional lawyer Denicio Brison represents the group of Statian politicians. “This is only the first round of at least fifteen rounds,” says Brison about the verdict. “We are naturally going for a second round,” says the constitutional lawyer. “Eventually, Statia will win.” The politicians will have to take the matter up again.
The group of dismissed politicians, including Clyde van Putten , accuses the Dutch State of acting contrary to Article 73 of the UN Charter. According to them, the Charter states that the Netherlands must help the islands achieve full self-government and therefore temporarily taking over the administration on the island would be unlawful. The claimants want compensation and that their compensation for their work as politicians is paid.
But the court does not agree with this. According to Judge Sander van Rijen, there was ‘gross administrative neglect of duties’ when the politicians were in power and that is why the Dutch State stood in their right to act. According to the court, there is no reason for compensation or it is necessary for claimants to continue paying their wages.
Statians take the Dutch State to court: ‘This will be the end of the Kingdom’
ORANJESTAD – The civil lawsuit, which is taking place on Tuesday in St. Eustatius against the Dutch State, does not stir much dust. Yet according to the plaintiffs it may well be the beginning of the end of the Dutch Kingdom as we know it. What’s up with that?
The case against the Dutch State was brought by a group of Statian politicians led by PLP leader Clyde van Putten. They are all part of the board that was deposed by the Dutch government in 2018, because there would be ‘maladministration’ and ‘favoritism’ among other things.
The intervention led to anger from the deposed Statian politicians accusing the Dutch State of “acting contrary to Article 73 of the UN Charter.” According to the complainants, it states that the Netherlands must help the islands achieve full self-government and independence and that there must be no question of administrative intervention or other types of interference.
Whether the judge in the main proceedings of the Statians versus the Dutch State also thinks that way in the main proceedings is questionable. Because in the interim order judgment of 11 December 2018 , the group was already unsuccessful by the Court of First Instance.
The judge then gave the preliminary opinion that the administrative intervention of the Dutch State on St. Eustatius “is not in violation of the UN Charter” and that there is indeed a “full degree of self-government.” The judge also referred to agreements made in the Kingdom Statute of 1954.
What does the Kingdom Statute actually say?
The Kingdom Statute was established in 1954 and states that the countries of the Kingdom have an equal position. Since 2010, in addition to the Netherlands, Aruba (autonomous since 1986), these are also Curaçao and St Maarten. The islands of Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius are ‘special municipalities’ and are part of the Netherlands.
The Statute states that the countries independently take care of their own affairs, these are national affairs . You should think of things like; justice, finance, education, economics and social affairs.
But there are also matters for which the countries are jointly responsible, which are Kingdom affairs . You should think of things like; defense, nationality (passport), human rights and external relations.
And then there are separate agreements between the countries in the Kingdom, laid down in consensus of the National Laws . The Kingdom may intervene on the islands if there is ‘faulty administration’ or ‘faulty financial management’. But that is only allowed if a majority of the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom, which includes all countries, agrees. Interesting detail: the Netherlands does have the largest representation in that council.
It is precisely this Statute that the plaintiffs regard as ‘unlawful’ and they want to challenge this further in the main proceedings on Tuesday. For this they have engaged the Saint-Martin constitutional lawyer Denicio Brison. In recent months, the lawyer has been investigating the case day and night, which he prefers to compare with a ‘fight of several rounds for heavyweights’.
“According to UN laws (UN resolution 1514 in 1960), the Statute to which the Netherlands refers is only valid if all the territories involved have voluntarily agreed to this through a democratic process,” Brison explains. “In our opinion, such a process has never taken place because the islands were colonies of the Dutch State in the period when the Statute was made and the International Court of Justice is of the opinion that if you are colonized, there is no free will.”
According to constitutional lawyer Brison, the Statute and thus the Dutch Kingdom are based on two lies: “First, that it was entered into out of free will and, secondly, that the Statute decolonized the islands. Both are demonstrably false, “says Brison.
“If the islands are not decolonized according to international law, then the Statute is invalid, according to the International Court of Justice, and any exercise of authority based on the Statute or other law or regulation is unlawful,” the lawyer explains. “The Kingdom as we know it, then collapse.”
“Nonsense,” says constitutional lawyer Douwe Boersema, who closely follows political developments in the Kingdom. According to Boersema, there must be an original population that is dominated by a foreign power to speak of ‘colonialism’. He doubts whether that is the case when the Netherlands conquered the Antilles in 1634 from the Spaniards. Boersema therefore prefers to speak of ‘popular planting’ in which the population ended up on the islands involuntarily or not.
Boersema also says that “the requirements laid down in the UN Charter and the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly with regard to decolonization of the islands through the agreement of the Statute in 1954” have been met. “There was a lot of discussion about that back then, but the result was clear.”
Boersema also refers to the internal agreement that was made in the Kingdom in 1983 on self-determination for all islands and the new relationships since 2010, to which all islands agreed at the time.
“This makes the matter of the right to self-determination an internal matter within the Kingdom.” According to Boersema, it therefore makes no sense “to go to the UN for a change in the constitutional position.”
But the Statian politicians don’t look at it that way. They maintain that the islands have indeed been colonized and that from the outset there was no question of voluntary agreement with the Statute and that ‘an unlawful basis has thus been laid’.
The group of Statian politicians expects a big impact if they win the case against the Dutch State. “Should the ruling be in favor of St Eustatius, there could be a flood of claims like the Chagos Islands,” says the Statian economist and adviser to Van Putten, Xavier Blackman.
Constitutional lawyer Brison goes one step further: “We are going to blow up the Dutch Kingdom, it will never be as we know it.”
The soil proceedings on Sint-Eustatius will be on Tuesday. If the group does not get its way in this, an appeal will certainly be lodged with the Common Court.