Chaka Laguerre, an American lawyer working as an intern at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, continues to claim that she was subjected to rough handling by Dutch police. The 30-year-old claimed that she was “brutalised by 2 Dutch male police officers, arrested, and thrown into jail (…) and [ending] up in the hospital swollen, bruised, and injured.”
Out of concern for the gravity of the accusations Laguerre had placed at the feet of police in the Netherlands, journalists were invited to look at video of the incident that had been captured by surveillance cameras. According to the Dutch public broadcasting system, the police officers in question acted professionally. A report by the system noted, “They even picked up her bag from the ground and locked her bike. They were extraordinarily patient.“
De Volkskrant -- a Dutch newspaper -- reported last week that the ICJ apologized for the baseless accusation. In deference to what was understood as an apology, the police were willing to drop charges against Laguerre. Andrey Poskakukhin, speaking for ICJ, released a statement saying that “we are not a party in this situation, but we will follow the case closely and want the facts of the incident to be fully cleared.”
While the reply from ICJ came as a surprise, police spokesman Bobby Markus maintained that “it looks to be a matter of principle what should account as an apology and what is not. We spoke to them extensively and see the ICJ’s comments in that conversation as an apology. That will remain.”
Laguerre and attorney Caroline Buisman, having also viewed the surveillance camera video, declared that they “fundamentally oppose” the determinations made by the police and media. They plan on filing a complaint against the police. On her Facebook page, Laguerre noted that she will not apologize to the police, while maintaining that ICJ never apologised to her either. This is also disputed by the police.
Chief of Police Paul van Musscher of the Hague announced he will file a complaint for false accusation of racism with the president of the ICJ. Laguerre claims that he visited her while she was in custody. “When we make mistakes, we owe up to them, but we also step forward when we are falsely accused. We can’t accept that,” Van Musscher said.
Laguerre, who on Facebook is known as Chaka Shakira, claimed that she was walking her bicycle across a street on a red light on her way to work when she was stopped by police. She claimed that she was arrested for being unable to produce identification, and then “roughed up.” According to DutchNews, a member of the local council, Fatima Fatima Faïd, is reviewing the case. Laguerre wrote on Facebook that she was pulled into a police vehicle by officers who she said used unnecessary violence. “I kept explaining that I am an expat working at the Court, that I did not know that walking across the street was a crime, that I did not do anything wrong, and begged them to speak to the Court security,” she wrote. “Both officers kept attacking me anyway. I screamed out for help…Dutch people stood around on the streets, watching and recording the incident on their phones, but no one tried to help me.” Laguerre also claimed that she was put in a police car, in tears and blacking out, and then put in a holding cell and refused a phone call. She then claimed that the chief of police came to tell her that other officers claimed that she had kicked and spat at them. “I told the chief that the police officers were lying (I would NEVER spit on a human being).” After she was eventually allowed a call, her ICJ colleagues came and she was released and told to pay a fine.
Laguerre compared her experience in The Netherlands with life in the United States. “What hurts me most is that I survived 30 years in America – never had an altercation with the police, never been arrested, never even gotten a ticket – and came to The Hague, the ‘City of Justice,’ where I was brutalized by two male police officers, as a lawyer working at the International Court of Justice, and on the very grounds of that Court. ‘And what frightened me most was that everyone stood around and watched… ‘This has been the experience of many people of color in The Hague.”
Laguerre hails from Jamaica. In 2007, she was crowned Miss Jamaica. In 2014, she graduated from the prestigious University of Michigan School of Law, which on its website noted her selection for the internship at ICJ.
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