SP urges foreign minister to tackle broader problem of Dutch prisoners in foreign jails as agreement is signed with Peru

17 July 2008

SP urges foreign minister to tackle broader problem of Dutch prisoners in foreign jails as agreement is signed with Peru

SP Member of Parliament Krista van Velzen says that she is “extremely pleased” that Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has reached an “agreement in principle” on the issue of Dutch prisoners in Peruvian jails. The agreement means that it is probable that they will soon be able to return to the Netherlands to serve their sentences. Van Velzen, who was recently in Peru to see the situation for herself and to speak to the prisoners, also expressed the hope that the Minister will treat reaching similar agreements with other countries as a matter of urgency. “Dutch citizens convicted of offences abroad should not be left to rot,” she said. “From a humanitarian point of view, because conditions are in many cases truly awful, but also from the point of view of their reintegration into society after they have served their sentences.”

Peru has recently introduced legislation making it possible for foreigners detained in the country's prisons to be repatriated. The Netherlands will shortly sign an accord to this effect, Foreign Minister Verhagen and his Peruvian opposite number having already agreed in principle. 108 Dutch citizens are currently imprisoned in Peru, almost all of then for drug offences. Krista van Velzen has on a number of occasions put parliamentary questions concerning the possibility that such people could serve their sentences in the Netherlands and has also travelled to Peru to see the situation for herself. “The living conditions in prisons, such as in this case in Peru, are extremely difficult, dangerous and a danger to the prisoners' health,” she says. “You wouldn't wish such conditions on anyone, but as things stand we have no control over this. Ideally every Dutch citizen would be able to serve his or her sentence in their own country, quite apart from the question of what punishment is just for each crime.”

Another reason why Van Velzen believes that it is important to come to an agreement with further countries as quickly as possible, such as for example Indonesia and the Dominican Republic, is the question of the reintegration of the prisoners into society after they have served their time. In Peru, Dutch citizens have a right to parole for the purpose of reintegration, but may not leave the country during the parole period, despite their generally having no intention to stay there afterwards. “Once the sentence is up the person is free to come back to the Netherlands, direct into society, for which they really need to be prepared,” Van Velzen says. “That is of course best achieved close to home, otherwise reintegration can become extremely difficult. Reintegration in your own country is very important.”

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