The International Court of Justice has denied claims it apologised to Hague police over an allegation of brutality from one of its lawyers.
Chaka Laguerre, a 30-year-old American lawyer on a clerkship at the Netherlands-based court, posted a lengthy Facebook status on Jan. 24 claiming she had been “brutalized” by officers as she cycled to work. She claimed the encounter resulted in her having to seek medical treatment.
The police claim they arrested her because of “dangerous behaviour” and gave her a fine for not providing ID, which she denies.
After her post went viral, Hague police denied the allegations and said their police chief Paul van Musscher was going to file a complaint against Laguerre.
But a day later after, the police said they had agreed to drop the complaint after receiving an apology from the court over the matter. These claims were widely covered by Dutch media in the wake of the incident.
As a result, it fuelled criticism of Laguerre online, with many accusing the lawyer of making up the story before any independent investigation of the incident had taken place.
However, in a strongly worded letter on 6 February, a copy of which was sent to BuzzFeed News, the head of the court’s information department, Andrey Poskakukhin, wrote to the editor-of-chief of AD, a prominent Dutch tabloid that published the claims, pointing out that its reports were inaccurate.
Poskakukhin wrote: “Contrary to what was published, the Court did not apologize to the Hague police in respect of the reported incident.
“The Court, as such, is not party to any proceedings involving the police. However, it continues to follow this matter closely and would like the facts of the incident to be fully clarified."
On Monday, the newspaper published a follow-up in which it stated that the ICJ had not apologised.
When BuzzFeed News raised the inconsistency with the Hague police, a spokesperson confirmed no formal complaint had been filed, but said the force had complained verbally.
The spokesperson added that someone from the court had “spoken in an apologetic manner which our police chief van Musscher accepted as an apology”.
The police would not confirm to BuzzFeed News exactly who they spoke to at the court, but Laguerre's lawyer Caroline Buisman told us it was with a registrar.
Buisman said her client was unhappy with the way the Hague police had handled the situation.
In addition to the claims of the court’s apology, the police also invited Dutch journalists to view CCTV footage of the incident, and published their interpretation of the incident, including a map of Laguerre’s cycle route.
Laguerre and her lawyer were not able to view the footage until days later and said in a press release that they “fundamentally disagree with the interpretation given by the police and selected media”.
"They are showing the footage to many different institutions and individuals while giving their interpretation of events. There is no audio, and so the footage does not capture what was actually said," Busiman told BuzzFeed News.
She added: "Instead, the police provide comments as they show the footage. This appears to be a clear attempt to manipulate the outside world into accepting their version of events. This all in the absence of Ms Laguerre and without her consent. Ms Laguerre, on the other hand, has not been offered an opportunity to share her interpretation of the footage."
Buisman said they particularly disputed police claims that Laguerre was unable to produce valid ID – a requirement in the Netherlands for anyone over the age of 13.
She said Laguerre was carrying two forms of ID, one in the basket attached to her bicycle and another in her laptop case, which fell to the ground during the struggle with police.
Laguerre has yet to file a formal complaint but her lawyers have been invited to have a meeting with the police to discuss the incident, after which a decision will be made.
BuzzFeed News has requested to see the CCTV footage but understands it cannot be shown externally due to the country's privacy laws.