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Prime Minister Freundel Stuart (right) is pictured in discussion with Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma at the 33rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Castries. At centre is Permanent Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office, Sonja Welch. (A. Gaskin/BGIS)

CARICOM Heads of Government have emphatically agreed that the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) will be the final appellate court for the region.

This was disclosed by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, as he gave a rundown of some of the issues discussed in caucus before the close of the 33rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community. The annual summit came to a close yesterday at the Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa and Beach Resort in Castries.

He pointed out that the Caribbean had a long track record of producing jurists of the highest international calibre and standing, and it would, therefore, be counterproductive at this stage of the region’s development to be timid about submitting to the court’s jurisdiction.

"Now, you know that once the treaty establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice was signed, Barbados and Guyana moved swiftly to submit to the jurisdiction of the court; not only the original jurisdiction which has to do with the interpretation of the CARICOM Treaty, but also the appellate jurisdiction which relates to civil and criminal matters.

"I made the point that there was no basis on which Barbados could experience any doubt about the Court, having regard to the fact that a former Chief Justice of Barbados, in the person of Sir William Douglas, had sat on the judicial committee of the Privy Council. [And] that the outgoing, or the immediate past president of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Mr. Michael de la Bastide, had also sat on the judicial committee of the Privy Council; and that a judge from here in St. Lucia …had also sat on the judicial committee of the Privy Council; and that out of Guyana, Dr. Mohammed Shahabuddeen had sat as a judge at the International Court of Justice," he noted.

Concerning the issue of the partial accession of Trinidad and Tobago to the CCJ, Prime Minister Stuart said the leaders also gave this matter a lot of thought, and that country would have to reconsider its position.

"Trinidad and Tobago had on the table a proposal that would have allowed them, if the heads were so minded, to put one foot in and to keep one foot out – another way of saying that they wanted to accede to the jurisdiction of the court at the criminal level, but to remain outside of the court’s jurisdiction at the civil level.

"The consensus of the Heads was that was not practicable at this time [and] would send the wrong signals and, in fact, that there were other policy and legal implications that would have to be examined before there was agreement on that issue. Of course, the Legal Affairs Committee of CARICOM, which is an organ of the CARICOM Community, had looked at the issue and had determined that it was not necessarily the tidiest way of making use of the Caribbean Court of Justice."

Mr. Stuart explained that it was not practical to have the CCJ headquartered in Trinidad and Tobago and that country not submitting to the court in its appellate jurisdiction. He emphasised that the situation had to be corrected and that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago would "be back in touch with us in the near future, we hope, with a more coherent and a more determined approach to the Caribbean Court of Justice".

cathy.lashley@barbados.gov.bb

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