Anti-arbitration injunctions

British Caribbean Bank Limited v. Attorney General of Belize [2013] CCJ 4 (AJ)

 By Kiady Brown, Norman

Manley Law School

The case of British Caribbean Bank Limited v. Attorney General of Belize arose out of a decision to nationalise the telecommunications industry in Belize. In 2009 the Government took over Belize Telemedia Limited (“Telemedia”) and in 2011 it passed legislation to acquire the loan and mortgage owed by Telemedia to a Turks and Caicos company – British Caribbean Bank Limited (“BCB”). In response, BCB challenged the acquisition legislation in the Belizean courts, arguing that it violated the Constitution. BCB also started foreign arbitration proceedings, relying on an investment treaty between the governments of Belize and the United Kingdom. The treaty provided for the use of foreign arbitration to settle disputes between the Government of Belize and English companies. The government obtained from a Belize judge an injunction to stop the arbitration on the basis that it was unfair for BCB to pursue both arbitration and Belizean court proceedings.

This anti-arbitration injunction was set aside by the CCJ. The Court made it clear that arbitration agreements should be honoured and it is only in exceptional cases where the arbitration is vexatious, oppressive or unconscionable, that a court should grant an anti-arbitration injunction. The CCJ did not consider that the arbitration in this case could be so described because BCB was entitled to pursue both arbitration and litigation as both sets of proceedings were different. The arbitration involved a claim in international law and the domestic litigation was based on the Constitution. Therefore there was no basis for granting an anti-arbitration injunction.

Caribbean Court of JusticeThis summary is intended to assist the Caribbean public in learning more about the work of the CCJ. It is not a formal document of the Court. The judgment of the Court is the only authoritative document and may be found at http://www.caribbeancourtofjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2013-CCJ-4-AJ.pdf

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