November 17, 2009

Is the CCJ Enough For the Caribbean?

One legacy you inherit when you belong to a Commonwealth country is that there are still some ties with the British Empire that are hard to break. Take the case of the final court of appeal for the Caribbean islands – although the Caribbean Court of Justice was established almost a decade ago in Trinidad in 2001, only two countries of this island region are members of its appellate jurisdiction. The others still take their cases to the Britain-based Privy Council where a panel of five of the nation’s top judges decides if the appeal has any merit or not.

Most CARICOM countries are signatories to the CCJ’s original jurisdiction but only Barbados and Guyana are members of its appellate jurisdiction. So is the CCJ ready to take on the entire Caribbean region? Apparently not, according to the President of the Dominica Bar Association Levi A. Peter who feels that this court is still not as effective as the Privy Council. He is not convinced of its ability as an efficient final appellate court.

But on the other side of the ocean, British jurist Lord Phillips has had enough of hearing case after case from independent countries from the Caribbean and other Commonwealth countries at the Privy Council in London. He thus indirectly endorsed the continued use of the CCJ as the main and only final court of appeals in the Caribbean and has said that he doubted that the Privy Council needed to spend most of its time listening to cases that were local to the Caribbean.

Will the abolishment of the Privy Council force these nations to turn to the CCJ as the final appellate court? Has the CCJ not established its reputation as a forum to hear international tribunal disputes that arise from the interpretation and application of the Revised Treaty under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy?

But the British government says that it has no plans to abolish the Privy Council and those individual Commonwealth countries like Trinidad and Tobago will have to decide for themselves if they wish to retain the Privy Council as their final court of appeal or turn to the CCJ and its homegrown judges.

Perhaps it is time that the countries who have left the Commonwealth behind stop using their resources and concentrate on building their own instead, and the CCJ is a good place to start for the Caribbean.


This guest post was contributed by Donna Mitchell, who regularly writes on the topic of paralegal schools online . She welcomes your comments and questions at her email address:

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