During a festival, in The Hague, the Netherlands, an unarmed man was arrested for jokingly saying that he had a weapon between his legs. He later died due to asphyxiation.
After the 42-year-old Aruban, Mitch Henriquez died in police custody, civil unrest erupted in the Netherlands, climaxed by uprisings breaking out in The Hague. Concerned Dutch citizens demanded answers and wanted the officers involved, with Henriquez arrest, held accountable for his death. After releasing their first statement, the Dutch Prosecution Office retracted it due to incorrect information. The press release stated that Henriquez became “unwell” in the police van, during the ride to jail. Video footage of his arrest shows, that after being choked for a period of time, he seemed to be unconscious. You then see officers pick the lifeless Henriquez up and drag him to the police van . Henriquez died the following day, at the hospital.
The initial autopsy report showed that Henriquez had died due to asphyxiation. In video footage, you see 5 officers subduing him, with one of them placing him in the choke hold. During a press conference the The Hague head prosecution chief, Kitty Nooy, stated that “He was apprehended because he stated multiple times that he had a weapon. During his arrest, the police used violence because he was resisting. Yesterday the man died in the hospital. We have received the findings of the initial autopsy report. The report concludes that the victims cause of death was due to a shortage of oxygen. This was caused by the way that the police handled the situation, there is no other explanation. The 5 officers who were involved, during the apprehension and arrest of the victim, are now seen as suspects in regards to the death of Mr. Henriquez.”
The Hague Head Prosecution Chief Nooy stated during the press conference that Henriquez stated multiple times that he had a weapon. Family members and witnesses state that Henriquez said the following while grabbing his crouch: “I have a weapon, right here in my pants.” Video footage shows a officer stating “You shouldn’t make jokes about having a firearm,” implying that they knew during his arrest that he was unarmed.
Current Status of Investigation
Almost a month after Henriquez’s death, no new information has come out, concerning the homicide investigation. We reached out to the The Hague Prosecution Office to ask them for clarity concerning the first press release and the current status of the homicide investigation. Our request for information consisted of 8 specific questions. The questions were not directly answered, instead we received a similar statement that The Hague Head Prosecution Chief Nooy made during an interview with Dutch news station Omroep West, on July 1, 2015. The Hague Head Prosecution Chief Nooy states on her LinkedIn account that she has been the substitute head prosecutor for ‘s Gravenhage, the Netherlands, for the past 8-years.
“After someone dies due to police violence, we want to have a clear story line, quickly. There is no other way then to base this on the available summary information that is available. It’s possible that this initial information has to be adjusted at a later time. In this case the information was initially summary and had to be adjusted,” wrote the The Hague Prosecution Office press secretary. The Hague prosecution office would not clarify who provided them with the faulty information that appeared in the first press release. They also wouldn’t clarify is this person or persons will be reprimanded. The press secretary also stated that the Dutch National Police Internal Investigation Department has taken over the homicide investigation, but are expecting the investigation to take months.
The internal investigation website states that an investigation of a government official, who is suspected of being involved in a violent confrontation resulting in serious bodily injury or death, approximately lasts 6 weeks. If the prosecution office determines that a government official possible broke the law, they are required to inform the head prosecutor of internal investigation. After this, am investigation coordinator is appointed to lead the internal investigation. It is not clear who appointed the investigation coordinator or who the coordinator is. Within the framework of the internal investigation, the investigative coordinator is not allowed to have any affiliation with the jurisdiction where the offense took place.
The Hague Uprisings vs. Homicide Suspects
A number of individuals who attended the Justice for Mitch Henriquez demonstration have been arrested and have either been accused of inciting a riot, looting and/or assaulting police officers. The prosecution office has decided that a majority of suspects will be tried within a super speedy trail, with court cases taking place a week or two after their arrest. Some suspects are also being held in jail for an undetermined time. The Hague prosecution office would not clarify if the suspects are being held under a Dutch law that can be compared with the U.S. Patriot Act.
The The Hague Prosecution Office would not state what the 5-officers are being suspected of, if or what they will be charged with and what sentence they will ask for. The prosecution office doesn’t see any reason to arrest them. “The officers haven’t been arrested because the police has a monopoly on violence, in certain situations they are allowed to use violence. First there would have to be special circumstances before a police officer will be taken into custody. An example of a special circumstance, is if the person is a flight risk,” stated the prosecution office press secretary. We asked where we could find these “special circumstances” documented and have not received a response.