LEC focuses on cross-border crime in State of law enforcement 2021

Press release June 16th 2022
To: all Media / Print & Broadcast

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The Law Enforcement Council (hereafter: the Council) recently issued its
annual State of Law enforcement directly to the Minister of Justice as well as to the Parliament of Sint
Maarten. The focus of this State – that mainly looks back on the year 2021 – is on the rule of law, the
developments with regards to the strengthening of law enforcement and the most recent inspection
reports published by the Council related to cross-border crime. Besides this, the Council also took the
opportunity to highlight positive developments within the Ministry of Justice and describe the inspections
carried out by the Council in 2021.
Strengthening the rule of law
The recommendations of the Council based on its inspections are ultimately geared towards
strengthening the rule of law in Sint Maarten. According to several reports and analyses, transnational
crime, a new take on cross-border crime, forms one of the greatest threats for the region and cannot be
seen separate from local crime and therefore neither can the approach. It is noted that many cases of
cross-border crime related to drug smuggling and trafficking, human smuggling and trafficking, arms
smuggling and trafficking, and money laundering take place in the countries, including Sint Maarten.
Cross-border crime amongst others, has therefore been addressed in the country package for Sint
Maarten as well as by the judicial authorities in their approach. The aim of the reforms and measures
listed in the package are to contribute to the strengthening of the rule of law, by focusing on strengthening
border control, tackling financial-economic crime, improving the Crime Fund, and improving the detention
system. In 2021 this translated to concrete steps being taken by amongst others, the Ministry of Justice.
These included a new protocol between the countries in the Kingdom to strengthen border control and
whereby a plan of approach was drafted focusing on amongst others, materials, personnel, and training.
Assistance was also requested from the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) to improve
the detention situation, and as agreed, the government administration refrained from making budget cuts
to the most vital sectors of the rule of law. Additionally, a plan of approach with regards to the
management of the Crime Fund was also drafted. The Council was also requested to review and monitor
the implementation of the recommendations of the Council regarding the Crime Fund in 2022. Besides
these, preparations were made for the drafting of a Consensus Kingdom Law regarding data protection.
Cross-border crime
Since 2019 the Council has drafted several reports detailing the approach of the judicial authorities to
combat the various forms of cross-border crime: human trafficking and smuggling, drug trafficking and
smuggling, corruption, arms trafficking and smuggling, money laundering and terrorism financing, and
cybercrime. To successfully combat these crimes prerequisites such as an integral approach, information,
international cooperation, strengthening of the law enforcement chain and the cooperation with the
Detective Cooperation Team (RST) were identified by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Council indicated,
based on its reports, that these prerequisites were still not sufficiently present in 2021. “Despite some
organizational improvements by the various law enforcement authorities, the Council ascertained
bottlenecks in each of its reports which hampered a successful approach. These had a common thread, a
(persistent) lack of resources specifically in the area of capacity, expertise, materials, finances and
information gathering”, the Council stated.
Highlights 2021
While the results of the inspections of the Council often reveal areas that require improvement, the
Council also highlights in its State 2021 some positive developments within the Ministry of Justice that
contribute to the quality and effectiveness of the justice chain. This, as progress by authorities is often
hard-fought due to, for example, budgetary constraints and therefore deserves to be acknowledged. For
example, headway was made by the workgroup tasked with drafting the plan of approach related to the
protocol on strengthening border control and stakeholders were positive in their outlook with regards to
its completion.
Strong efforts by the Minister of Justice also resulted in successful cooperation between the Netherlands
and Sint Maarten related to the detention system. The Council has namely always called on both Sint
Maarten and the Kingdom of the Netherlands to take responsibility for addressing the complex and urgent
matter of the prison and even though in 2021 the assistance (of UNOPS) was slow in getting off the ground,
the Council is positive that once all points have been finalized it will have great results for the detention
system in the long term, resulting in a new prison amongst other things. Developments surrounding the
prison also received a positive impulse with the recruitment of personnel and the execution of the plan
of approach for the prison drafted in 2018. Additionally, the installation of a new prison director and a
new management team at the house of detention signaled the commitment of the Minister of Justice to
the realization of the goals set for the prison.
Tackling youth delinquency and relational violence as well as finalizing the function book were also on the
agenda in 2021. Amongst others, a symposium was held on youth delinquency on behalf of the Ministry
of Justice and for which the Council provided a presentation with its findings from its 2015 report
regarding the topic. To create more awareness with regards to relational violence, workshops were held
for the Sint Maarten Police Force by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Council was also pleased to witness
inter-ministerial cooperation with regards to establishing a policy to combat domestic violence, child
abuse and gender violence. Finally, the national decree containing general measures establishing a
function book for law enforcement authorities, was approved, and signed by the Governor and the
Minister of Justice on 20 December 2021.
Inspections 2021
The inspections initiated in 2021 by the Council included the following topics: combating money
laundering and terrorism financing; cybersecurity within the various justice institutions; general review of
the follow up of the recommendations issued by the Council in the period 2012-2018; monitoring of
recommendations by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
or Punishment in the detention facilities: evaluation of the Mutual Agreements regarding detention
(requested by the Ministers of Justice (& Safety)); and illegal firearms (requested by the Minister of
The Council observed that cross-border crimes such as drug trafficking, firearms trafficking, and human
trafficking are given high priority within law enforcement by both the investigative authorities and the
Public Prosecutor’s Office, and that efforts are made to deal with them as quickly as possible. However,
the lack of resources plays a large role in their ability to do this and other tasks successfully, as well as
provide for continuity and guarantee structural changes. Nevertheless, cross-border crime requires the
attention of the relevant authorities in a structural manner as this form of crime cannot be seen separately
from local crime and is considered a serious threat to Sint Maarten. To realize this, the Council stated that
continuous support on an administrative and political level is required as the various authorities cannot
effect the necessary change on their own.
The Council concludes in its State 2021 that it has noted that the necessary cooperation required for
dealing with complex crimes, specifically cross border crime, is being pursued more and more, not only
by and between the various authorities, but also on an inter-ministerial level and within the Kingdom. The
Council has always been a proponent of cooperation and has made numerous recommendations to this
effect. The Council therefore continues to applaud all cooperation efforts as they will contribute to the
strengthening of the rule of law and by extension benefit the safety and quality of life of the Sint Maarten
The ‘State of law enforcement 2021’, with infographic and all other publications of the Council can be
found on the website www.raadrechtshandhaving.com or http://rrh-sxm.org.