UWI Today March 2015 - page 20

It was as good a Wednesday
as any to open up the
case for regionalism again. And from the way the Noor
Hassanali Auditorium (newly bedecked with its official
commemorative name plaque) was packed, it was evident
many thought so too.
And so the afternoon of January 21, 2015 whizzed by at
the CCJ Symposium, which had convened with the purpose
Advancing the Case for Regionalism and Indigenous
Jurisprudence: Positive Dialogue to Promote Accession to the
Caribbean Court of Justice
This event, examining the rationale for and judgements
of the Caribbean Court of Justice was timely, given that it
celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.  
Six constitutional and legal experts on two panels
presented powerful arguments to Trinidad and Tobago and
other countries in the regionwhich have not already adopted
the CCJ as their final appellate court.
In the current jurisdictional arrangement, all
CARICOM countries, with the exception of the Bahamas,
have already acceded to the original jurisdiction of the
court, that is, concerning CSME matters. However, thus
far, only Barbados, Guyana and Belize have accepted the
appellate jurisdiction, though Dominica and St Lucia have
signalled their intent to do so. Grenada and Jamaica will
hold referenda to assess the question.
In the first panel, jurists from Australia and Canada,
sister Commonwealth nations, discussed their eerily similar
experience to the Caribbean on the road to replace the
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of the United
Kingdom with their own final appellate courts.
In those countries too, self-doubt and over-caution
bred from colonialism had handicapped the final liberating
actions toward full judicial sovereignty. Yet, experience
showed these countries that they should have taken the
step earlier. Indeed, in Australia it was demonstrated that
even half measures, such as accepting constitutional appeals
only, had been insufficient and “messy,” in the words of
Hon. Justice John Alexander Logan RFD
Both Australian
and Canadian judges highlighted the significant gains in
developing an indigenous jurisprudence that had occurred
after abolition of appeals to the Privy Council.
Significantly, Professor Benoit Peltier, a constitutional
expert from Canada, spoke on the evolution of the role of
the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), and explained how
the SCC’s establishment had signalled the end of what he
referred to as “judicial colonialism” and the development
of judicial independence.
One of the pivotal moments at the symposium came
when Mr. Reginald Armour SC, the panellist representing
the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago, confirmed
publicly, for the first time, his organization’s support for
Trinidad and Tobago abolishing appeals to the Privy
Council.  In his view, the concerns about lack of capacity,
competent judges and sufficient resources to man the
court, were no longer credible. He found no rational basis
for the now lessening fears toward adopting the full CCJ
The second panel assessed the evolving jurisprudence of
the CCJ in its 10 years. I focused on the impactful original
jurisdiction decisions of
, a Jamaican national who
sued the Barbados Government about freedomofmovement
and the
cases which involved CSME arrangements in
the region, which had been impressively handled and
demonstrated the sophistication of a court that spills over
into its appellate areas of inquiry.
My assessment was based on three guiding
(1) The CCJ’s adherence to established principles of
independence, integrity and fairness;
(2)The CCJ’s consistency with internationally accepted
norms of judicial decision-making by a superior court, i.e.
using reasoning and logic; ingenuity; accepted principles of
law and keeping in touch with emerging judicial and legal
trends, – but nevertheless having the ability to be innovative
when necessary; and
(3) The CCJ’s ability and willingness to create an
indigenous (Caribbean) jurisprudence – adapting to
our particular local circumstances without sacrificing
appropriate judicial principle, a long cherished goal.
Landmark cases of the court to date were the basis
of my analysis as they involved a wide variety of subject
areas, including test cases. They have dealt with innovative
issues such as the introduction of the concept of legitimate
expectation in Death Row cases with international
dimensions, forensic orthodontics and misfeasance in
public office. It is clear that the Court is infused with a deep
understanding and appreciation for cutting edge principles
such as fairness and proportionality.
Further, it has been influenced by established principles
of international human rights. An important element was
the embrace of international law instruments, even when
these were not incorporated into domestic law, as explained
.The CCJ had also seized the opportunity to correct
contradictory decisions on the death penalty emanating
from the Privy Council and displayed a refreshing
understanding of the realities of Caribbean legal systems.
These are all accepted parameters of a final court that is
consistent with and well entrenched in universally accepted
judicial traditions. The CCJ has approached its task with
independence, integrity and intellectual rigour and has
exhibited a fine tradition of sound judicial reasoning.
One aspect of the value of the CCJ that is often
overlooked is its great potential to develop the hybrid legal
tradition that is still prevalent in the region given that in
some countries such as Guyana and St Lucia, there is a
mixture of the UK common law legal tradition and the civil
law based on Roman Dutch French law.
Denys Barrow, SC, former OECS judge, examined
the aspects of the CCJ’s body of work that highlighted its
recognition and adherence to now established principles
of international labour standards as identified by the ILO.
He alerted the audience to a landmark decision now before
the CCJ concerning the rights, in particular, Mayan land
rights, of the indigenous peoples of Belize. These standards
Courting Regionalism
CCJ symposium advances the case for indigenous jurisprudence
B y R o s e - M a r i e B e l l e A n t o i n e
From left, panellists on
“Quality and effectiveness of the CCJ,”
Professor Rose-Marie Antoine, Dean, Faculty of Law, UWI, St. Augustine; the Hon. Justice Denys Barrow CBE, SC, Belize,
and Mr. Dante Negro, Director of the Department of International Law, OAS.
Photo: Elliott Francois
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