May 30, 2016

The CCJ: an example to Latin America | Sir Ronald Sanders


Two events at the Organisation of American States (OAS) in recent months have underscored the soundness of the system by which the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is financed.
 It is a tribute to Caribbean creativity and innovation that the CCJ is one of the few Courts in the world that does not depend on government contributions to function. The example that the CCJ represents should be replicated elsewhere, and the people of the 14-nation Caribbean Community countries should take pride in the inventiveness of Caribbean minds in structuring the funding of the Court.
The two events at the OAS that highlighted the reliability of the mechanism for funding the CCJ are related to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. Both organisations declared that they are strapped for cash and desperately need contributions from the 34-member states of the OAS to continue their functions. 
The two bodies are important. They are dedicated to the protection of human rights within the Inter-American system. Eminent Caribbean jurists have served on the Commission where they have advanced causes to combat scourges such as racism and discrimination.
But, the Commission - set up by the OAS in 1959 — released a statement earlier this week in which it said things are so bad that mass layoffs and cancelled visits are imminent and inevitable, unless member countries provide emergency donations.
Remarkably, it was donors from European countries, not Latin American and Caribbean nations, that have been keeping the Commission alive through donations. The President of the Commission, James Cavallaro, said the crisis was sparked by these European donors cutting back because of the influx of refugees from Syria and elsewhere.
According to Mr Cavallaro, the withdrawal of European money has exposed the reluctance of Latin American and Caribbean governments to come up with the cash that the commission needs. In a caustic but frank comment, he said, “Some countries feel uncomfortable when the Commission highlights the challenges the region faces in human rights. They strangle us financially, perhaps in order to stop us fulfilling our mandate.”
At a meeting of the Permanent Council of the OAS on 25 May only Panama, Costa Rica and Antigua and Barbuda offered to make immediate donations to the Commission. In the case of Antigua and Barbuda, I explained that Antigua and Barbuda greatly values the work of the Commission. I recalled the contribution made by my colleague, Sir Clare Roberts, when he served as a Commissioner, in ensuring that the rights of black people were specifically accepted as part of the Commission’s mandate as well as the obligation to tackle racism.
I made the point that the reason that the Antigua and Barbuda government could not be more generous to the Commission is that, as a small state, we are marginalised by bigger and more powerful nations that deny us access to concessional financing for development; unfairly attack our financial services sector; treat us in world trade on the same terms as large countries such as the US, Canada, India and South Africa; and refuse to provide us adequate and affordable financing to combat the effects of Climate Change of which we are an innocent victim. Despite our own struggling circumstances, we made a voluntary contribution to the Commission as an example to other larger and richer countries of the importance of upholding and protecting human rights. 
But, some Latin American governments dislike both the Commission and the Court, accusing them of being “political”. Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, for instance, has dismissed criticism of his government’s legal pursuit of opposition leaders and general human rights record. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has also accused the body of “exceeding its authority” in its criticism of harassment of critical journalists who have criticised his regime.
In the last two decades, the Commission has made ongoing efforts with the OAS Member States to secure a budget that would enable it to work effectively to fulfil its mandate. As a result of these efforts, the OAS General Assembly has approved a number of resolutions expressing a commitment to address the situation; however, these have not been reflected in a significant increase in resources. This situation is not surprising given the financial state of the OAS itself. Two of its largest member states are severely in arrears in their contributions to the Organisation and they vigorously resist any attempt to impose sanctions for non-payment. Indeed, the OAS is operating on a fictional budget that cannot realistically meet its costs of operation.
In political organisations a financial crisis, while not sustainable, is bearable for a time. Not so with Courts and Commissions that are charged with upholding human rights and protecting minorities and the vulnerable. Thousands of victims of human rights violations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean would be left unprotected.
That is why the CCJ model should be adopted by the OAS in relation to both the Court and the Commission. The CCJ is funded through an independent Trust Fund which was established with US $100 million from initial contributions of the member states through loans from the Caribbean Development Bank. Since its establishment in 2001, the Court’s expenditures have been met by the Fund, allowing it to function without having to go cap in hand to governments, and maintaining its flow of work in delivering justice.
It is clear that some member governments of the OAS do not want an independent and functioning Court and Commission. It is up to others who believe in human rights and the rule of law to keep them from withering. The member states of the OAS that believe in democracy could do no better than to advance the adoption of the CCJ model for the Inter-American Court and the Inter-American Commission. In this, CARICOM has led the way – at least on sustainable funding.
Source: http://www.barbadosadvocate.com/columns/caribbean-court-example-latin-america 
(Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of American States. The views expressed are his own. Responses and previous commentaries:www.sirronaldsanders.com)

March 21, 2016

Privy Council asked to declare its position on A&B’s move to the CCJ

The key architect of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has called for an explanation by the Privy Council, as to why its justices have changed their position on allowing Commonwealth nations to access its court.
Sir David Simmons, who is also the former Attorney General and former Chief Justice of Barbados, made the call for the clarification after the President of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Lord David Neuberger announced last week that Antigua & Barbuda was welcome to stay with the judiciary.
“The Privy Council has a duty to explain to the people of Antigua & Barbuda, how this position differs from that adopted by the first President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Lord Phillips in 2009,” Sir David stated.
Lord Neuberger said that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) countries were welcome to stay with the judiciary, if they so desire and that plans were under way to assist these nations in accessing the court.
Lord Neuberger’s remarks were made in a pre-recorded interview, last week, during the Youth Forum education campaign — part of a three-month movement to adopt the CCJ as the island’s final court of appeal.
But the UK judge’s comments were quite contradictory to those published by BBC Caribbean, in 2009, when Lord Nicholas Phillips said Law Lords on the Privy Council were spending a ‘disproportionate’ amount of time on cases from former colonies, mostly in the Caribbean.
He added that “in an ideal world” Commonwealth countries — including those in the Caribbean — would stop using the Privy Council and, instead, set up their own final courts of appeal.
According to Sir David, what was more alarming is that the former UK judge had considered drafting Court of Appeal judges to take some of the pressure off their Supreme Court.
The former Barbados Chief Justice also said that the Privy Council’s claim of attempting to improve accessibility to its justice system is just a façade.
“They made an attempt two years ago to go up to the Bahamas – they did go up to the Bahamas – at great expense to the Bahamian Government, as an attempt to suggest that they were going to make justice more accessible to people from the region but they have not been back since because it was too costly for the Bahamian Government,” Sir David said.
Sir David believes that Lord Phillips was sincere, in that judges had found themselves burdened by issues that “didn’t really resonate with them”.
They are more concerned about being members of the European community, he added.
Source:  Daily Observer, Antigua
http://antiguaobserver.com/privy-council-asked-to-declare-its-position-on-abs-move-to-the-ccj/

March 18, 2016

Antigua-Barbuda prepares to join Guyana, others at Caribbean Court of Justice

Source: Demarar Waves
Antigua and Barbuda appears poised to join Guyana and several other Caribbean Community (Caricom) member-states in having the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final court of appeal.
A three-month public education campaign was launched on Thursday in that twin-island nation as the government prepares to hold a referendum to determine whether to replace the London-based Privy Council as its apex court with the Trinidad-based CCJ.
The campaign, which has bi-partisan support, will span three months on a budget which government said will exceed 2 million Eastern Caribbean dollars.
While no date has been set, the government hopes to hold the referendum in June.Already using the CCJ as their final court of appeal are Guyana, Barbados, Belize and Dominica.
Demonstrating a united front, Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Leader of the Opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) Baldwin Spencer who were both at the head table at the launch, urged the electorate to choose the CCJ, contending it will provide easier access to justice.
Spencer noted that “true freedom” will only come when the country and region move from a position “where colonialism and imperialism controlled our decision making processes to a position where we are not only a free people, but we have to make sure we form a society in which our decision making processes are ours.”
Supporting Spencer, PM Browne made “a clarion call for all registered voters in Antigua and Barbuda to support this important institution of regional Governance and sovereignty.”
He said the current final appellate court “is clearly an outmoded colonial construct that was designed exclusively for the wealthy few and has failed to provide broad-based accessibility and dispensation of justice to the masses.”
Elaborating on Spencer’s point on access to justice, PM Browne said justice is not only delayed because of the remoteness of the Privy Council but, in many instances was denied because of inaccessibility associated with the prohibitively high costs.
“Even today, justice is being denied to the majority of our people who find it cost-prohibitive to take their case to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council,” he said.
“Having the CCJ as an all-inclusive final appellate court, will cure this egregious injustice of exclusivity that has plagued us since 1834,” Browne said, while adding that the fact that the CCJ is an itinerant court (travelling court) will help offset costs for litigants.
Former attorney general Justin Simon QC noted that between 2007 and 2014 about a dozen cases from Antigua and Barbuda were taken before the Privy Council, while over 30 cases were taken before the CCJ which was inaugurated in 2005 and which also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised treaty of Chaguaramas.
Simon said the statistics suggest there is a serious problem of a lack of access to justice as he pointed to two cases where litigants spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover legal expenses before the Privy Council.
In a video message, Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque also expressed support from the proposed move, stressing it will “complete the country’s circle of independence.”
He said the court was set up with the highest levels of international standards and steps were taken, and remain in place to ensure there’s no political interference in the management and operations of the court.
According to him, the CCJ is also staffed with some of the “highest intellectual minds” and “there’s no other court in the world as independent” as the CCJ since it is funded under a unique trust fund arrangement and does not have to rely on governments for money.
Another point noted was that the judges are not appointed by the heads of government.
CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron, who applauded the main opposition UPP and the ruling administration for dealing with this issue with “political maturity”, said there’s no evidence justifying public concern of political interference, while he highlighted that the “high quality” judgments of the court are readily available for public perusal.
Explaining the system used to ensure the financial independence of the institution, he said, “The financial arrangements of the court included the establishment of a trust fund where member states invested US$100 million with the expectation that the interest of that investment would fund the court in perpetuity.”
Meanwhile, head of the education campaign mission, Ambassador Dr Clarence Henry said in order for the national referendum to be executed, elections rules must be drafted and that is currently being done by Dr Francis Alexis, a constitutional lawyer based in Grenada.
“He has been provided with all necessary legislation from which draft rules for the referendum will be drawn, in consultation with the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission and there’s also a parliamentary process to be followed,” he reported.
On Friday morning, there will be another session which will be led by youths. Henry said the aim is to ensure the public is sensitised adequately to participate in the referendum which requires a two-thirds favourable majority to allow for the move from the Privy Council to the CCJ.
Source: http://demerarawaves.com/2016/03/11/antigua-barbuda-prepares-to-join-guyana-others-at-caribbean-court-of-justice/

UWI lecturer says CCJ is a conundrum

Source: St Lucia Times       
UWI lecturer, Doctor Hamid Ghany, has defined the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as a “conundrum”, asserting that Caribbean people are being asked to accept the court as the final court of appeal.
However Ghany, who is a Senior Lecturer in Political Science, told the Times that the first President and Chief Justice of the CCJ, Michael de La Bastide and the current one, the Right Honorable Sir Dennis Byron both became members of the Privy Council in 2004.
The UWI senior lecturer expressed the opinion that as a result, the convention has emerged of having the Chief Justice of the CCJ become a member of Her Majesty’s Privy Council, while at the same time the region is being urged to cut ties with the council.
“As someone who has been involved in drafting two constitutions that’s set up the CCJ as the final court of appeal, I am not objecting to the transfer,” Ghany explained.
The UWI lecturer  said he was objecting to the manner in which the concept is being sold to the public.
As far as he is concerned, the CCJ should be sold to the public as being a court that has a superior record of delivery and a certain level of efficiency of service.
“It should not be sold to the public on an anti-colonial basis when you have persons who are members of Her Majesty’s Privy Council who have knighthoods in the same breath telling us we should end the colonial connection,” Ghany observed.
He recalled having asked publicly for an explanation as to why the two lines of argument exist.
Ghany has called on the CCJ to abandon the anti-colonial argument, which constitutes an “intellectual trap.”
“They need to advocate for the court on the basis that it can be more efficient and will serve the Caribbean more efficiently than the Privy Council does,” he declared.
The UWI lecturer, who is Coordinator of the Constitutional Affairs and Parliamentary Studies Unit, Faculty of Social Sciences, UWI St Augustine Campus, delivered a lecture last night at the UWI Open Campus here.
Source: http://stluciatimes.com/2016/03/18/uwi-lecturer-says-ccj-conundrum#

March 08, 2016

CCJ judge says criminal justice ‘broken’ in most Caribbean countries

A judge with the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) says he believes that the criminal justice system in most, if not all Caribbean countries, is “broken”.
Addressing the inaugural meeting of the Advisory Committee on Criminal Justice and Magisterial Reform, under the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project, Justice Adrian Saunders said, “it would probably be a fair characterisation to say that in most, if not all of our states, today, the criminal justice system is broken.
Justice Saunders told the two-day meeting that in one CARICOM (Caribbean Community) state, recently, a man who had been in custody for nine years on a murder charge had his case dismissed before the judge, who found that he had no case to answer.
“Nine years in custody; no case to answer,” Saunders emphasised, saying that in another case, a man had been charged with a fairly simple traffic offence and was adamant that he was not guilty.

There is no dispute about the facts, Justice Saunders told the audience, adding that the only issue is the legal interpretation of a very small section of the traffic law in that country, which he did not identify.
“The man and his lawyer interprets that section one way and the police interpret it another way,” the judge said.
He said the case has been going on for over two years and throughout that time, the accused person and his lawyer has been spending two to three “entirely unproductive hours in court only to be told that they must return the following month”.
Justice Saunders gave a third example, saying that judges at the CCJ recently heard an appeal in a case in which a man has been found guilty of rape and had been sentenced to jail.
“He appealed all the way up to us (CCJ). When we examined the documents in the appeal, we discovered that although the man was still in custody, he really should have been released sometime before, because he had already served his sentence,” Justice Saunders said.
“Each of you must have your own examples because these are not uncommon things that happen throughout the region,” he told the gathering, which included judges, directors of pubic prosecution and other members of the judicial system from across CARICOM.
“Frankly, viewed objectively, all of this amounts to an abuse of the people of the Caribbean, especially because it not only involves a massive wastage of time and resources, but it also implicates the liberty of the individual, in a context where there is very little accountability,” Saunders said.
“Caribbean people deserve a whole lot better and it is incumbent upon those who work in the justice sector to work towards its improvement.”
Justice Saunders, however, said that his comments are not to say that there are not valiant efforts being made at introducing very useful reform initiatives.
He said reform initiatives are underway in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and other countries.
“But, it is also true to note that criminal justice reform is not an easy task. It is certainly not as easy to accomplish as civil justice reform,” he said.
The Advisory Committee was established under the JURIST Project and is tasked with reviewing criminal justice and magisterial reform initiatives in the Caribbean and making recommendations for improving the quality of justice delivery and reducing delay in the criminal justice system.
The JURIST Project is a five-year regional Caribbean judicial reform initiative funded under an arrangement with the Government of Canada.
It is being implemented on behalf of Global Affairs Canada and the Conference of the Heads of Judiciary of CARICOM, by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which was appointed by the Conference as its Regional Executing Agency (REA).
The project is working with judiciaries in the region to support their own efforts to improve court administration and strengthen the ability of the courts and the judiciary to resolve cases efficiently and in a timely fashion.
Criminal Justice and Magisterial Reform falls under the project’s overarching goal of delay and backlog reduction in courts.
The project is currently being implemented in at least six countries but will be expanded to include other territories in the region.
Special attention will also be paid to building the capacity and skills of judges, court administrators and court personnel to deliver services that address the needs of women, men, girls and boys.
The Advisory Committee is comprised of a broad range of stakeholders from across the region and the criminal justice system including appellate and trial court judges, magistrates, Directors of Public Prosecutions, and a criminologist among others.
Source: http://www.nycaribnews.com/latest-news/ccj-judge-says-criminal-justice-%E2%80%98broken%E2%80%99-most-c%E2%80%99bean-countries

February 16, 2016

ABEC begins preparations for referendum on CCJ

The Antigua & Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) said it is making preparations to facilitate the vote which will determine whether or not the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) replaces the Privy Council as the nation’s final court of appeal.

To replace the Privy Council with the CCJ, however, would require a constitutional change, which would have to be approved by voters in a referendum.

Said referendum is expected to be conducted later this year.

Chairman of ABEC, Nathaniel Paddy James said a constitutional expert from Grenada is currently drafting the rules for the referendum which will be conducted similarly to a general election.

There is a provision in the Referendum Act which allows for the making of rules by the minister, which is the prime minister,” James said. “They are being drafted and will be looked at and will eventually go to Parliament for ratification.”

James said this is expected to be done in “short order”.

In the meantime, the National Coordinating Committee (NCC) will spearhead a public education campaign aimed at sensitising residents about the Trinidad-based CCJ.

Source:http://antiguaobserver.com/abec-begins-preparations-for-referendum-on-ccj/

Published February 15, 2016

January 20, 2016

Public education programme on CCJ to start in March

ST JOHN’S, Antigua (CMC) – The Consultative Committee spearheading preparations for a nation-wide public education and sensitization programme ahead of the referendum on whether Antigua and Barbuda should join the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) says the programme will be launched on March 10.
Head of the Committee, Ambassador Dr Clarence Henry, says “work is in full gear” to ensure that the public education programme meets with the objective of informing citizens on the move by the government to move away from the London-based Privy Council, which serves as the island’s highest court.
Henry said that invitations had been sent to Caribbean Community (CARICOM chairman and Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow, as well as the prime ministers of St Kitts and Nevis, and Grenada; the President of Guyana and Premier of Montserrat to attend and participate in the formal launch ceremony at which Prime Minister Gaston Browne will deliver the feature address.
He said the Committee has also invited prominent Barbadian jurists Sir David Simmons, Sir Henry Forde and Richard Chetanham to participate in the public education campaign.
“Plans also include visits to Barbuda for consultations with key groups including the Barbuda Council, the Barbuda representative, Arthur Nibbs, the leadership of the Barbuda People’s Movement, as well as church leaders. There will also be a Youth Forum specifically for the youth of Barbuda as well.”
Last Thursday, Governor General, Sir Rodney Williams, delivering the tradition Throne Speech at the start of a new parliament term, said that the government is committed to making the CCJ its highest Court.
He said the issue should be a bipartisan affair, but warned that any attempt to politicize the process could derail plans to move ahead with the campaign.
Henry who is also Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to CARICOM, said  the Committee has “been busily putting together a draft public education campaign strategy that will seek to educate and inform the general public surrounding the CCJ and the Privy Council.
“I wholeheartedly welcome this latest indication of the pending referendum. The government has stated its position and I can advise that we are in the advance stages of our planning for what will be an extensive all-embracing comprehensive public education exercise.
“We will be education, informing, listening and sharing with all in the society; the electorates will be specially targeted; the private and public sectors, civil society, the Opposition, trade unions, and the Bar Association will be among the focus groups down for engagements which hopefully should run in earnest for approximately four months”, he said.
Henry said the inaugural meeting of the Consultative Committee will take place shortly to discuss the draft campaign strategy as well as the other plans ahead of the referendum.
“Already discussions have been held with the Chairman and other members of the Electoral Commission, several groups and potential partners who will be playing a key role in the public education process and management of the referendum.
‘Our draft plan includes focus group discussions; town hall meetings; the establishment of a  website in association with technicians within the Ministry of Telecommunications; engage all forms of media in a massive campaign as well as the publication of a magazine and flyers for distribution,”  Henry said.
He said the official launch, which is expected to be an all-day affair, will also include a public sector Forum.
The CCJ was established in 2001 and while many of the Caribbean countries are signatories of the Original Jurisdiction of the Court, only Barbados, Dominica, Belize and Guyana are signatories to its Appellate Jurisdiction.
The CCJ also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member grouping.

Published in the Jamaica Observer, 
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/pfversion/Public-education-programme-on-CCJ-to-start-in-March#ixzz3xp9fDEHU

January 13, 2016

More territories might join the CCJ this year

More territories might join the CCJ this year
Dear Editor,
We are in a new year and am certain before the end of December at least three more countries will abolish appeals to the Privy Council and accept the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final court of appeal. Others will soon follow.
The CCJ was established on February 12, 2001, and inaugurated on April 16, 2005, and so far only four countries ‒ Guyana, Barbados, Belize and Dominica ‒ have severed ties with the London based Privy Council, and despite several promises and commitments by other governments there is an inordinate delay in the others coming on board. However, recent developments lead me to believe that Jamaica, St Lucia, and Grenada will soon become full-fledged members of the regional court.
Jamaica with a population of more than 2.5 million has recently passed three pieces of legislation, paving the way for such a move, and its Foreign Affairs Minister, AJ Nicholson, said there was no turning back.
He told lawmakers that there is no need for a referendum to decide the issue. He said, “Let us tear down this referendum wall.” He disclosed that none of the 41 countries that left the Privy Council and established their own courts had gone the referendum route.
St Lucia’s Prime Minister, Kenny Anthony, has always been an advocate for the regional court and so has Grenada Prime Minister, Keith Mitchell, and now that a legal opinion has been issued by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court that a referendum is not required for those two countries to rid themselves from the Privy Council, moves have been made in this regard.
Meanwhile the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, and leader of the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on constitutional reform for a bi-partisan approach. The MOU was signed in the presence of the President of the CCJ, Sir Denis Byron, who was Chief Justice of the ECSC.
The new Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Keith Rowley, is also in favour of the regional court since he questioned his predecessor, Kamla Persad Bissessar about why she only wanted to go half way ‒ abolishing appeals to the Privy Council in criminal matters alone.
Fourth term Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines is a strong advocate of the CCJ, but his attempt to join the court failed in a referendum. He might pursue it after he settles into his new term, and the St Kitts/ Nevis Prime Minister will also be encouraged to join.
Yours faithfully,
Oscar Ramjeet

Article from Stabroek News: http://www.stabroeknews.com


URL to article: http://www.stabroeknews.com/2016/opinion/letters/01/12/territories-might-join-ccj-year/

Adjournments blamed for CCJ court delays

Adjournments blamed for court delays
ANTOINETTE CONNELL, antoinetteconnell@nationnews.com

No case should be pending for ten years, and something must be done about the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) constant criticism of Barbados’ drawn-out justice system, says new High Court judge Pamela Beckles.
She blamed the clogging of the system on judicial officers taking too long to give decisions, lack of police files and too many adjournments. 
“I have a problem with reserving decisions for too long because if you wait for so long, you can’t remember although you have your evidence book.
“All of us are responsible for this delay – the judicial officer, the defence counsel, the accused. It is something we have to deal with. We have to do something about that criticism we keep getting from the Caribbean Court of Justice. There is no way no case should be in the system ten years; I don’t care what type of case it is.”
Please read the full story in today's Daily Nation, or in the eNATION edition.

January 11, 2016

New CARICOM Chair, PM Dean Barrow shares plan

By Ingrid Fernandez, Staff Reporter
Prime Minister Dean Barrow took over the chairmanship of CARICOM this week, emphasizing on the major issues facing the Caribbean in the year to come.
Barrow expressed optimistism over the prospects the Caribbean has, amidst the economic crisis most Caribbean countries face. He stated the economic challenges might be “the sternest economic test that our member states have had to face in recent memory.”
He noted that elevating the standard of living of member states’ civilians has been a challenge for the region, as most countries have faced an increase in foreign debt and poverty this year.
Under his leadership, Barrow, hopes the Caribbean will build economic, environmental, social and technological resilience to foster sustainable development.
The Prime Minister’s priority is on the issue of consolidation and he expressed hope that during his year of leadership, the arrangements made for Caribbean unity will be revised with the hope of making them more effective. Regional unity continues as a resounding message for Caribbean leaders.
Barrow highlighted the achievements the region enjoyed, making reference to the success of the Caribbean’s input at the COP21 and other achievements over the past years. He said these are benchmarks in keeping together as a region.
The leader of the country also mentioned the importance of the Caribbean Court of Justice, especially to shape identity and regional unity. He says he believes that having a regional appellate reflects on the level of intellectuality in the Caribbean and the region’s ability to manage its own affairs.
Crime, Barrow stated, is one of the worst social ailments prevalent in the Caribbean. He assures that this year, the member states will implement new forms of dealing with crime, especially focusing on grassroots movements.
Barrow acknowledged the Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart’s guidance over the past year and resolved to continue strengthening Caribbean integration under his one year leadership.
Source: http://www.reporter.bz/general/new-caricom-chair-pm-dean-barrow-shares-plan/

November 17, 2015

Senator Falconer Proposes Live Broadcasts of CCJ Hearings - Jamaica Information Service

Senator Falconer Proposes Live Broadcasts of CCJ Hearings - Jamaica Information Service

Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, is proposing that live broadcasts or streaming of appeals be considered for use at the Caribbean Court of Justice.This, she said, is in order to “widen and deepen the understanding of the workings of the CCJ.” 

Senator Falconer was making her contribution to the debate on the three Bills to establish the CCJ as Jamaica’s final appellate body in the Senate, on November 13.

Through these Bills, it is the intention of the Government to separate Jamaica from the Judicial Committee of the United Kingdom (UK) Privy Council, and to become part of the CCJ in its Appellate Jurisdiction.

Minister Falconer argued that acceding to the CCJ will afford all Jamaicans an equal opportunity for justice. She lamented that access to the Privy Council has been elusive for many Jamaicans, mainly due to the prohibitive costs associated with taking a case to that body.

“It is really the rich, private citizen or the relatively well off private businesses or those appealing death penalty decisions who receive pro bono help from local and English Counsel who can access the Privy Council,” she said.

Senator Falconer  said that in her estimation, the cost of travel and accommodation for the CCJ is about 76 per cent less than that of the Privy Council and the cost of filing documents at the CCJ is 98 per cent less than that of the Privy Council.

The Minister noted that the CCJ is already utilising audio and video conferencing facilities to conduct hearings, so that litigants and their counsel are spared the financial burden of appearing physically in Trinidad, where the court is housed.

“I place considerable weight on arrangements that put ordinary people on the right side of the digital divide and importantly on the right side of the justice system,” the Minister stressed.

She further argued that a final appellate body from, and for the region will be particularly sensitive to the realities of the Caribbean and will properly reflect the status of Caribbean countries as sovereign nations.

The Minister  noted as well that Caribbean judges have unquestionable knowledge  of the nuances of the region’s cultures, philosophies and social constructs.

“My faith in supporting the three Bills which seek to make the CCJ Jamaica’s final appellate court, rests in the certain knowledge that regional judges are erudite and of unquestionable integrity and legal experience,” she said.

The Minister  said  that  based on its track record, there is no doubt that the CCJ will effect positive change in the social order of the Jamaican society by delivering justice which is accessible, visible, efficient and reflective of the country’s values and mores.

“The CCJ is our clear and present opportunity to build our own jurisprudence, framed by our own historical and social experiences and reflective of our values as a people who subscribe to the rule of law. We are at the cusp of another dimension of the fulfilment of our sovereignty. Let us rise to the occasion and complete the task of Jamaica’s accession of that appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ,” she said.

Bills being debated are the Constitution (Amendment) (Caribbean Court of Justice) Act 2015; the Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, 2015, and the Caribbean Court of Justice Act, 2015.

The CCJ Bills were debated and passed on May 12 in the House of Representatives, where the Government enjoys the two-thirds majority needed to have them passed.  The Opposition voted against all three Bills.

The CCJ was established on February 12, 2001 through an agreement signed by the Heads of Government of CARICOM at their 22nd meeting in Nassau. It has two jurisdictions: an appellate and original.

April 13, 2015

CCJ celebrates 10th birthday

Trinidad and Tobago will in due course accept the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as this country’s final court of appeal, to replace the London-based Privy Council.
This view was expressed by the CCJ’s President Sir Dennis Byron, who formed this expectation based on statements being made by local officials. The question now is the timing for this to become a reality.
Sir Dennis, 77, a Leeward Islands scholar born in St Kitts and an attorney for almost 50 years, during which time he has held prestigious positions as a regional and international jurist, scoffs at the opinion of those who say the CCJ is inferior to comparable legal institutions abroad.
Q: Sir Dennis, the Caribbean Court of Justice is observing its tenth anniversary this month. Exactly what is there to be celebrating about?
A: (In his Henry Street, Port-of-Spain, headquarters of the CCJ Wednesday morning) I think we have a lot to celebrate including the fact we are in existence for ten years and it’s a great opportunity to serve the citizens of our region.
The court operates in two distinct jurisdictions: one is the original jurisdiction which deals with disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the Single Market and Economy Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. Secondly, final appeals from countries within the region. And during our existence we have done extensive work in both areas, 16 cases have been filed in the original jurisdiction.
One of them, which we all can remember, which received a lot of public attention is the matter where the young lady from Jamaica brought proceedings against the government of Barbados and that case demonstrated the relevance of the CCJ.
Therefore you do have something to crow about? 
(A slight smile) Well, I don’t like to use that concept but the point is we have in fact done a lot of work, it has been well done and it has been received by the persons who have benefited from the adjudication of the court.
In your 2011-2013 report you said words to the effect that one of the goals of the CCJ is to develop a strong regional jurisprudence system, yet there is this bugbear involving Trinidad and Tobago. Has that put a damper on your celebration?
(Decisively) No. I don’t think that Trinidad and Tobago is a bugbear (A heavy sigh). People have always been trying to get me to speak about what they call political will and I have tried to avoid that because …
Yes and I suspect that it would not be prudent to do so...?
(Interjecting) Well, No. No. It is not that I cannot do it but I am just saying I don’t agree with the perceptions that have prompted those questions. As I see it…if you look at government as an institution, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has done a lot to support and develop the work of the CCJ.
That is true Your Honour, but isn’t it a fact that Trinidad and Tobago is yet to make the CCJ our final court of appeal, with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar saying a few years ago this country was now willing to let the CCJ deal only with criminal matters from T&T?
Yes.
Therefore isn’t it correct to say that Trinidad and Tobago is not yet fully on board?
Well, you see again I do not like that language because in my opinion Trinidad and Tobago is fully on board with the court; it has signed the treaty establishing the court, it has paid up in full its financial contributions to the court’s operations.
The court was set up on the basis that it would be completely independent of political interference and one critical area of independence is financial independence, so the CCJ does not have to depend on the monthly or annual subventions from any member government. Consequently, a unique form of financing was developed through a (US)$100 million trust fund which is funded through the interests derived from that money. Trinidad and Tobago’s contribution to that was just over 29 per cent, approximately (US)$29 million and they paid that in full.
It is only one thing they have not done and that is abolish appeals to the Privy Council and establish the CCJ as its final appeal court.
In your view Sir Dennis, wouldn’t it be a more acceptable proposition for Trinidad and Tobago to make the CCJ its absolutely final court of appeal?
Of course. I think it is overdue. It would be better for Trinidad and Tobago, it would be better for the court. It would be better for the region as a whole if the vision of the founding fathers were fulfilled in this matter, so we are ready and willing to serve the community in this manner.
Your Honour, if my memory serves me right, I think the present T&T administration, when it was in the opposition, it came out against the CCJ complaining about its ethnic composition…?
Well the CCJ has a component of seven judges, the President and six others and the qualifications for being selected as a judge are very clearly spelt out. In making appointments the Regional Judicial and Legal Service Commission can only appoint 
people who apply to become judges and then those persons go through a competitive process. 
The criteria that is utilised is high moral character, intellect, analytical ability, sound judgement, integrity and understanding of people and the society.
Obviously, legal knowledge is a critical part of that and these are the factors that are utilised to ensure that the best candidates are selected.
Now, you have raised the issue of diversity here because that is what is really being said: that a court should somehow or other reflect persons that it represents and we all agree that that is desirable. Our court, however, cannot function on the basis of a quota system where you say you must have this number of persons simply because of the numbers.
But one has to trust that the issue of diversity is a factor which would be taken into account in the selection process.
Are you suggesting that a person of a certain ethnic background has not yet applied to be a judge of the CCJ?
(A somewhat perplexed expression) Well, I don’t know exactly what you expect me to say in response to that. If you look at the seven members of the court—you have an Englishman, a Dutchman, you have a Trinbagonian who is a woman of East Indian descent who is the most recently appointed judge, you have a judge from Jamaica, you have two from the Eastern Caribbean and one male judge from T&T. So I think you have quite a mixture which demonstrates that type of diversity of the court (which) is far superior to the diversity of courts from other countries.
Based on your interaction with the Trinidad and Tobago Government, perhaps even at the level of the Prime Minister, do you have any sort of indication about how soon this country would come on board fully?
Well, you use that word indication, I cannot speak to that, but what I can say is that expectation and I do think it is likely that T&T is ready to go forward. I have heard the Prime Minister saying that it is inevitable in this regard, the question really is when is the right time to do it.
And I further believe that her readiness to come on board would most likely be influenced by statements from significant constituencies in the country. The most important in this context is the Law Association and I felt really gratified when the new president of the association said last year T&T was now firmly committed to ensure that the CCJ became the final appellate of Trinidad and Tobago.
Your Honour where do you see the CCJ in the next ten years?
In the next ten years the CCJ will be firmly entrenched as the final appeal court for all countries of Caricom and in fact it is quite interesting, we have already received indications that courts which are not within the Commonwealth are making enquiries asking us what is the process of making the CCJ their final court of appeal.
Finally Sir Dennis, how do you view the dispensing of justice by the CCJ in comparison to that of let’s say the Privy Council?
There are many answers to that question and the one that is most relevant at the moment has to do with the opportunity for access to justice. Take, for example, the court of appeal in Trinidad and Tobago gives many judgements each year and very few appeals are made to the Privy Council. 
That could mean two things: litigants are satisfied and they do not want to appeal. It could also mean that if they want to appeal it is too expensive and complicated to do so...which is it?
If it is the latter, having the CCJ gives the citizens an opportunity to get access to justice in Trinidad and Tobago in that regard and that’s the experience we have had in the countries where the Privy Council is the final court of appeal.
Source: http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2015-04-11/ccj-celebrates-10th-birthday
Published: 
Sunday, April 12, 2015 

October 16, 2014

CCJ to protect traders of goods and services - News - JamaicaObserver.com


KINGSTON, Jamaica — Traders of goods and services will have protection from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), under the Caricom Regional Integration Electronic Public Procurement System, being developed across the region.

According to Ivor Carryl, programme manager for the Caricom Single Market and Economy at the Caricom Secretariat, a regional public procurement notice board will be created for member states to post their contracts, and where any player feels that unfairness is involved in the award of the contracts, the CCJ can be called on to adjudicate.

"In Article 7, which deals with non-discriminatory, equal treatment and fairness, all of your domestic laws and practices relating to Caricom, must mirror those provisions," he told JIS News in an interview.

"If a Jamaican company under the protocol submits a bid, and for some reason he feels aggrieved that the process (the tender evaluation) didn't go right, he would have the right under the treaty to challenge the procuring entity, and ask them to explain why he did not win the bid; and he has the right to go to court and challenge the decision," the Caricom official added.

Carryl explained that under the Regional Procurement Regime, the appeal mechanism has been strengthened, so persons will have easier access in seeking redress

Common Fisheries Policy for Caribbean approved as final policy

BELIZE CITY -  The Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), comprised of Ministers responsible for Agriculture from across the Caribbean Community, has confirmed the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy as a final policy document for the Community.

The Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy (CCCFP) is aimed at fostering greater harmonisation across the Caribbean in the sustainable management and development of the region’s fisheries and aquaculture resources, with special emphasis on promoting the most efficient use of shared resources while aiming to improve food security and reduce poverty in the region.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has said that CARICOM policies, once authorized by COTED, are binding on the countries. At its meeting held in Suriname last Friday, 10 October 2014, COTED gave its stamp of approval to the CCCFP and said that the newly authorized policy should be applied by Member States as far as possible. The formal signing of the CCCFP by member countries is expected to commence in the months ahead.

The recommendation to COTED came out of the 5th Special Meeting of the CRFM's Ministerial Council, held on Thursday, 9 October 2014, in Paramaribo, Suriname, coinciding with Caribbean Week of Agriculture. On that occasion, the CRFM’s Executive Director, Milton Haughton, presented a paper on First CARICOM Strategic Plan (2015 – 2019). The CARICOM Sec retariat and all other CARICOM Institutions along with the CARICOM countries will all be following a single plan for the first time following its approval by the Heads of Government in July 2014.

Strengthening Fisheries cooperation with French Caribbean

Apart from its endorsement of the CCCFP as a final policy document, COTED also endorsed the decision arising out of the 5th Special Meeting of the CRFM Ministerial Council, held the day before the COTED meeting, to strengthen cooperation between CARICOM/CRFM States and the French Départements Outre-Mer (DOMs) in the Caribbean, particularly Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana.

Since 2011, CRFM States have been discussing ways of improving cooperation with the French territories in the Caribbean, when the issue was discussed within the context of strengthening management and conservation of the Eastern Caribbean flyingfish fishery and combating IUU fishing in the region.

The initiative comes at a time when the CRFM has adopted the first regionally approved management plan for flyingfish, a known shared species that is harvested by up to seven countries in the Eastern Caribbean: six CARICOM States and Martinique. The flyingfish plan was approved by the CRFM in May 2014 and closer cooperation with the French will support its successful implementation and provide opportunities for further dialogue and collaboration on other challenges facing the fishing industry of the countries concerned.

Curaçao applies to join the CRFM

On 17 April 2014, Curaçao submitted its application for Associate Membership in the CRFM. The Ministerial Council, acting on the recommendation of the Executive Committee, supports the application of Curaçao to join the CRFM as an Associate Member.

Consequently, the Ministerial Council has authorized the CRFM Secretariat to commence the process of negotiating an Association Agreement with Curaçao, which should be finalized and ready for signature for the 9th Meeting of the Ministerial Council slated for April/May 2015.

The Ministerial Council is empowered to admit any State or Territory of the Caribbean Region as an Associate Member, providing the Ministerial Council is satisfied that the State or Territory is able and willing to discharge its obligations.

Expanding knowledge sharing using ICT technologies
Representatives of the CRFM countries and stakeholder organisations also discussed strategies for enhanced knowledge management and the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for information sharing and cooperation in the fisheries sector as a way to improve the welfare and livelihood of fishers.

The issue was discussed at both the Executive Committee meeting and at a one-day workshop made possible through the CTA-funded Knowledge Platform Project. The workshop reviewed materials and strategies being used for communication among fisheries professionals and stakeholders in the fishing industries across the region and considered ways of improving the effort. The workshop also sought to strengthen the use of ICT in fisheries and identified ways to promote sharing of information and technology for improving participation of stakeholders in policy development and the management of fisheries.

CTA is the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the European Union (EU) which aims to improve food and nutritional security and encourage natural resource management in ACP countries.

At its subsequent meeting, the Ministerial Council underscored the need for countries to use modern ICT tools to enhance policy dialogue and the efficiency, effectiveness and impact of programmes and activities within the fisheries sector. The Council expressed its support for the regional fisheries workshop on promoting blue growth, scheduled for 20 to 21 November 2014 in Grenada.

Update on Case 21 to tackle IUU fishing
In relation to developments in international fisheries law, the CRFM’s Ministerial Council welcomed the ongoing deliberations by the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Seas (ITLOS), to clarify international law on matters such as flag state responsibility and liability in the fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU ) fishing.

Legal counsel for the CRFM, Professor Pieter Bekker of Dundee University, Scotland, had presented oral arguments to the full Tribunal of 21 Judges on 5 September 2014. Bekker's submission was well received and noted internationally.


Source:
THE BAHAMAS WEEKLY
Common Fisheries Policy for Caribbean approved as final policy
By CRFM Secretariat Communications
http://www.thebahamasweekly.com/publish/caribbean-news/Common_Fisheries_Policy_for_Caribbean_approved_as_final_policy37648.shtml
Oct 15, 2014