Police suspended in Hague following Aruba man′s death | News | DW | 01.07.2015
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Police suspended in Hague following Aruba man's death

The Netherlands has suspended five officers after a man from Aruba died in custody. Protesters have taken to the streets in the nights following the death of Mitch Henriquez, 42, who was visiting relatives in The Hague.

A prosecutor has accused police of causing a man's death in custody. Autopsy results show that Mitch Henriquez probably died of oxygen deprivation.

"It is likely that the suffocation was a result of the police intervention," prosecutor Kitty Nooy said.

Police suspended five officers and will treat them suspects. They claimed to have arrested the man at a music festival on Saturday after he said he had a weapon.

Officers had claimed that Henriquez resisted arrest and became unwell on the way to the station. However, footage shows officers putting Henriquez's limp, apparently unconscious body into a police vehicle.

Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk promised Aruba an investigation. The Dutch-speaking Caribbean island is one of four constituent countries forming the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The former Spanish colony has been ruled from The Hague for nearly 400 years, though it enjoys considerable autonomy.


Following Henriquez's death, protesters in The Hague organized via social media. Officers have advanced on some protesters with batons, charged others on horseback and, so far, arrested 27 people for "public violence." On Tuesday, Hague Mayor Jozias van Aartsen called for calm.

"I call on everyone to remain calm and not to let feelings of powerlessness and anger degenerate into violence and destruction," Van Aartsen said.

Hague police have frequently faced allegations of racism. A 2013 documentary drew on testimony by former agents and victims to accuse police of profiling and violence against immigrants and foreigners.

In February 2015, National Police Chief Gerard Bouman wrote a note to staff warning them that a "poison is creeping into our organization" in the form of prejudice against Muslims.

Moroccan and Turkish migrants and their descendants have especially complained of police harassment. In addition to the outpouring of anger toward police in The Hague, Henriquez's death has drawn comparisons to the killings of unarmed people of color by officers in the US and cast a wider light on global incidents of police violence against vulnerable populations, including in Germany.

Anti-migrant parties have enjoyed a foothold in Dutch politics for several years, with Geert Wilders' PVV holding 12 of 150 seats in the lower house. The center-right government led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte recently introduced a partial ban on face coverings that many have criticized as Islamophobic.

mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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