CCJ about to become the final appeal court for Dominica

Dear Editor,

It is now official, the Commonwealth of Dominica is on the verge of being the fourth jurisdiction in the region to cut ties with the British based Privy Council and join the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit announced that he has written the foreign secretary of the British government indicating the Dominican government’s decision to end the relationship with the Privy Council and that he has received a response indicating that they are working on administrative issues with the Privy Council to ensure that any matter now before the it can continue to be heard.

He went on to explain that once this is done the foreign secretary will write back to his government indicating the approval of the British government ‒ at least, the concurrence of the British government in Dominica leaving, because that is an independent decision.

Dominica’s legal affairs minister, Ian Douglas said he was impressed with the public’s reaction since they felt that it was high time that the country, which gained political independence decades ago, should cease to depend on Britain to adjudicate in legal matters.  Unlike St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and a few other Caribbean islands it is not a legal requirement for Dominica and St Lucia to get a mandate from the electorate by way of a referendum for abolishing appeals to the Privy Council. It will now join Guyana, Barbados and Belize in having the CCJ as its final appellate court which was inaugurated in April 2006.

It is rather disappointing that Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago which were in the forefront of establishing the regional court have still retained the Privy Council as their final court although they gained political independence more than five decades ago in 1962. The opposition in the twin island republic is all in favour of the CCJ, but Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is only interested in having the CCJ determine criminal appeals, but unfortunately so far no effort has been made to implement this although more than 18 months have elapsed since she made the announcement. Although there is tardiness on the part of most countries to get rid of the Privy Council as their final court, the CCJ is nevertheless fairly busy dealing with cases arising from its original jurisdiction  ‒ the most recent case was the matter involving a young Jamaican woman, Shanique Monique who was humiliated and refused entry to Barbados. The court in a landmark decision awarded substantial damages and ruled that the immigration authorities breached the Treaty of Chaguaramas.

It is understood that a few new cases have been filed seeking the CCJ’s adjudication in matters where persons were refused entry to Trinidad and Tobago because of their sexual preferences.

Yours faithfully,

Oscar Ramjeet

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