On Monday March 26 access was denied when I (Lawyer Sjamira Roseburg) came to visit my client, who is at the Point-Blanch Prison.
After a witness hearing in court I rushed to the prison. I arrived at 4:20 pm and was denied access. According to the prison director/ management, I can only visit until 4 pm. A complaint was submitted to supervisory committee of the prison.
The law states in article 48 criminal proceedings that a defendant has the right to have a lawyer and that the lawyer has free access to her client. Unfortunately, it looks like they consistently limit these rights as this is not the first time something like this has happened. In the past they have limited these rights by not allowing us to visit our clients on Thursdays. During the injunction case this was thrown out by the judge. The judge decided that counselors can visit their clients as long as they receive a call. After this verdict, access to our clients was usually granted between 8 am and 5 pm. I use the word usually because prison management has been inconsistent with their parameters for client visitation.
Furthermore, in the housekeeping regulations of the prison (article 23- 26) it states that attorneys have free access to their clients. The regulations that are important to visitors should be posted in a clearly legible manner near the entrance to the asylum seeker. However, despite the housekeeping regulations, the prison did not communicate that the visiting hours for counselors changed to 4 pm. The change of hours also was not printed on a sign anywhere near the entrance of the prison nor were any bulletins disseminated to counselor’s or visitors who would need to be aware of the change. When I called the ministry that’s responsible for the prison, the Ministry of Justice, they could not give me any information about a change in the visiting hours. So, if the change in hours has not been ordered by the Ministry, and the information has not been sent to the lawyers, and the new hours of operation is also not visible on the outside of the prison then visits/ free access still applies!
The fact of the matter is simple. Since the verdict (almost one year ago) we have been visiting the prison between 8 am and 5 pm. In the prison in Curacao lawyers can visit their clients from 8. a.m. till 5.pm. These hours have been standard across various prison locations. Why is prison management changing the rules now? Does it depend on who is working or on which lawyer is visiting? I would certainly hope not.
It seems like here on SXM prison management makes their own rules, and, in effect, violates the rights of the lawyers and of the prisoners. Their behaviour is getting worse and worse by the day. The Ministry of Justice has no control over the prison and it seems like a world that’s upside down!
All of this has to stop! It is time for everyone in ‘high’ positions to know the law. Encountering this more than once costs me time and energy and it is very disheartening to know that my efforts are thwarted by inconsistent governance. Enough is enough!
If the prison does not want to acknowledge this, there is nothing left other than collecting the penalties as stated in the verdict. Should it really go that far? I hope not.
But I will if these issues are not rectified.
Attorney at Law