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CCJ judgement will shift way business is conducted in Community – CARICOM Secretary-General

Caricom Secretary General, Irwin La Rocque

Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, has called on CARICOM Member States that have not taken the necessary steps to make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) their final court of appeal, to do so.

Ambassador LaRocque was speaking during a conference at the University of the West Indies, Regional Headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica on Tuesday hosted by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES).

The conference, which was hosted under the theme `Rethinking Regionalism: Beyond the CARICOM Integration Project’ sought to “engage participants in a sweeping review of the region taking account of how the complex problems of the contemporary reality are likely to shape CARICOM in the future”.

He said the most recent judgement by the CCJ in the case of Shanique Myrie and the Government of Barbados, would cause a shift in the way affairs in the Community were conducted.

“It has also cemented the Community’s rules-based system and continues to engender a high level of confidence” the Secretary-General said of the judgement,” La Rocque was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the Guyana-based Caricom headquarters.

He stated further that the decision was far-reaching, addressing decision-making in the Community, the nature and effect of Community law, obligations of Member States and rights of Community nationals.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on October 4 ruled in favour of Myrie, a Jamaican, in her case against the Barbadian government and awarded her damages to the tune of BDS$75,000.

The regional court found that Myrie had been wrongfully denied entry into Barbados, subjected to a humiliating cavity search and unlawfully detained overnight in a cell and expelled from the island.

The Secretary-General also noted that the ruling reinforced the critical role of the CCJ in the integration movement as a Court which will ensure that the Community’s decisions were adhered to.

He told his audience that the CARICOM Secretariat was reviewing the judgment to assess the implications for the Community and its Organs.

“I am certain that the judgment will be an historical contribution to the development of the Community integration arrangements,” the Secretary-General said.

The judgement issued by the eminent judges should give a considerable fillip to the movement for making the CCJ the final court of Appeal in the Community thereby completing the circle of sovereignty in the Region, Ambassador LaRocque said.

“Many around the Region seem to be pleased with the judgement on this particular matter in the Court’s role in its original jurisdiction. It should be borne in mind that it is the same court and the same judges who would be empanelled to consider matters in its Appellate Jurisdiction. I hope that this would remove any doubts about the capacity of our jurists to render judgements of the highest calibre,” he said.

She instituted proceedings in May, 2012 alleging that Barbados had violated her right to free movement within CARICOM. Myrie had also claimed that she was subjected to discrimination on the ground of her nationality when Barbadian officials refused her entry into Barbados on March 14, 2011.

Jamaica intervened in the proceedings and at the trial supported the claims of Myrie. She gave evidence, which was corroborated by Jamaican medical practitioners, that the treatment she received continues to cause her post-traumatic stress.

“The Court rejected Ms Myrie’s claim that she was discriminated against on account of her nationality but found for her on the other claims. In the course of its judgment the CCJ held that CARICOM nationals are entitled to enter CARICOM Member States, without harassment or the imposition of impediment, and to stay for up to six months,” the release said.

It noted that this right was derived from the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC) and a 2007 CARICOM Decision made at the Twenty-Eighth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM.

The right requires Member States to give the refused person written reasons for the refusal and also to advise them of their entitlement to access meaningful judicial review. The right may be denied only where the receiving State establishes that the visitor is an undesirable person or one likely to become a charge on public funds.

The Court defined “undesirable” as a person who “poses or can reasonably be expected to pose a genuine present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society.”

The Court also ordered Barbados to refund Myrie her medical expenses, her airline ticket and her reasonable legal expenses.

The full judgment of the Court is available on the CCJ’s website.