Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Myths about CCJ

Published:Wednesday | December 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Myths about CCJ

Opponents to Jamaica's accession to the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) often make the seemingly credible claim that this deepens the country's involvement in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) - a sort of creeping federalism from which this country disengaged more than half a century ago.

It is a good, emotive argument for the anti-regionalist and for those whom reflexive opposition to things Caribbean has political value. But the argument is hardly logical. For the fact is that if the CCJ has a role in binding the Caribbean into a union, that applies when it sits in its original jurisdiction. And Jamaica has long been a full-fledged, paid-up member of that aspect of the court.

Here's the deal. Jamaica is party to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, the agreement that establishes CARICOM, among other things, as a single market and single economy, similar to, say, the European Union. Already, there is free movement of goods, services and capital within CARICOM. The movement of labour is restricted, although CARICOM citizens, travelling among states, are guaranteed, by the Community, minimum expectations with regard to entry.

Crucially, the interpretation of the revised treaty is the job of the CCJ, sitting in its original jurisdiction, as a court from whose ruling there can be no appeal. Indeed, it was the CCJ, sitting in its original jurisdiction, on action brought by a Jamaican woman, exercising her right as a CARICOM citizen, that established the standards that people like Shanique Myrie, the claimant in the case, can expect from immigration officers when they travel to Barbados, from where she was barred, or other CARICOM members.

Ironically, the Caribbean Court of Justice (Original Jurisdiction) Act 2005, which legitimised in Jamaica the CCJ as the interpreter of the CARICOM treaty, with the power, as it did in the Myrie case, to advance community law that is also binding on Jamaica, had bipartisan support in the Jamaican Parliament. At the time, the parliamentary Opposition, the Jamaica Labour Party, facilitated the passage of the law so that Jamaica could sign on to the CARICOM single market and economy after the Privy Council had ruled as unconstitutional the method by which it was being removed and replaced by the CCJ as Jamaica's final court.

monumental advantages

Unlike with its implied supranational powers as interpreter of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, and similar to the Eastern Caribbean Court in relation to members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, the CCJ, sitting in its civil and criminal jurisdiction, rules specifically on the constitutions and laws of its signatories.

In that sense, therefore, the CCJ has similarities to the Privy Council, but with monumental advantages, not least of these being that it is far more accessible to the people it serves. It is a short, far less-expensive hop to Trinidad and Tobago, the CCJ's headquarters, than it is to London. And there are enforceable guarantees to entry to Port-of-Spain that Jamaicans can't claim in London. Further, the CCJ, which came to Jamaica to hear Ms Myrie, if it wishes, is itinerant and technologically accessible. Its jurisprudence is first class, and no judges, in any court, can claim greater insulation from political interference than those on the CCJ