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Jamaica seeks justice - Dispute with Barbados may head to CCJ

Published:Monday | April 25, 2011 | 12:00 AM

Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

Jamaica's dispute with Barbados over the alleged ill-treatment of 20-year-old Shanique Myrie could be headed to the Trinidad and Tobago-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Dr Kenneth Baugh, minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, has warned that the CCJ could be asked to rule on the case if the two countries cannot work out their differences.

This would be the first time that the Jamaican Government would be taking a case to the CCJ since it was established in 2001.

Ironically, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which now forms the government, has been opposed to the CCJ being the country's final court of appeal, although in recent months there has appeared to be a softening of that position inside the party.

With the Myrie dispute now at the level of government to government and a probe under way in Bridgetown, the Jamaican authorities are demanding that the Barbadian government does all that is necessary to establish the facts.

The dispute stems from claims by Myrie that she was subjected to verbal harassment and a demeaning cavity search on arrival in Bridgetown.

Responding to questions from Opposition Spokesman Anthony Hylton during last week's meeting of the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament, Baugh declared that Jamaica is not backing down on the Myrie case.

"In my own discussion with you concerning the problem in Barbados, it's going through a process. But eventually, it may well end up at the Caribbean Court of Justice, and we both accept that we will take it to that degree if it becomes necessary," Baugh said.

Myrie said she was subjected to an invasive cavity search by a female immigration officer when she arrived in Barbados on March 14.

No contraband was found on her during the search and she was denied clearance to enter the country before being held in immigration detention and sent back to Jamaica the following day.

The young woman has since retained the services of Hylton, who is the former minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade.

More issues to deal with

She has also been invited to Barbados to identify the officer who conducted the search.

Baugh said there were several other issues involving other CARICOM member states and Jamaica which are headed to another meeting.

"There are several issues, especially the governance issue that is being taken up at a special meeting of heads to take place in Guyana end of May," Dr Baugh said.

Since the Myrie case, other Jamaicans whose visits to Barbados pre-dated Myrie's have complained of being singled out by immigration officials in that country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade said it has received letters from other Jamaicans, but it is unable to provide figures on the number of Jamaicans treated unfairly in that country.