October 4, 2013 | 6:29 pm | Print
Above: the Caribbean Court of Justice
By the Caribbean Journal staff
In a landmark decision, the Caribbean Court of Justice has ruled in favour of Jamaican national Shanique Myrie in her lawsuit against the government of Barbados.
Myrie had brought an action in 2012 against Barbados alleging maltreatment at the Grantley Adams International Airport that included what she alleged was an inappropriate bodily search and unlawfully deported.
The CCJ awarded her $37,500 USD in damages to be paid by the government of Barbados.
The CCJ found that Myrie had been wrongfully denied entry into Barbados, subjected to a “humiliating cavity search” and had been unlawfully detained overnight in a cell and expelled from the country.
The judgment has major significance for a court that is seeking to gain legitimacy within a region most of whose governments still retain the UK Privy Council as their final court of appeal.
The court had jurisdiction because Myrie had alleged a breach of CARICOM law, namely her right to free movement within CARICOM under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
The Court rejected Myrie’s claim that she had been discriminated against on the basis of her Jamaican nationality, however.
The CCJ in its judgment held that CARICOM nationals are entitled to enter CARICOM Member States “without harassment or the imposition of impediment” and to stay up to six months.
The right was derived from the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and a 2007 CARICOM Decision made at the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM.
The court found that the right requires Member States to give both “written reasons for the refusal” and to “advise them of their entitlement to access meaningful judicial review.”
The right can only be denied, the court said, when the visitor is an “undesirable person” or “one likely to become a charge on public funds.”
Undesirable means a person who “poses or can reasonably be expected to pose a genuine present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society,” the court said.
The CCJ additionally ordered Barbados to refund Myrie her medical expenses, her airline ticket and her reasonable legal expenses.
CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron presided over the court, along with justices Nelson, Saunders, Bernard, Wit, Hayton and Anderson.
Michelle Brown and Nancy Anderson represented Myrie, while Roger Forde, QC, Patterson Cheltenham QC, Donna Brathwaite, QC, Dr David Berry and Nargis Hardyal appeared on behalf of Barbados.
Kathy-Ann Brown, Lisa White and O’Neil Francis appeared for Jamaica, which acted as an intervener, and Safiya Ali appeared on behalf of the Caribbean Community in the case.
For the executive summary of the judgment, click here.