Features — 17 April 2015 — by Adele Ramos
CCJ celebrates 10 years; 5 as final appeals court for Belize

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Apr. 16, 2015–The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is this week celebrating its first decade of existence as the regional court for the Caribbean and also its fifth year as the final appellate court for Belize.

Sir Dennis Byron, CCJ president, who is due to be in Belize next week for a historic sitting of the court here, has expressed the hope that all member states of CARICOM will give the CCJ a 10th anniversary gift of “full accession” to the Court.

Currently, only three countries apart from Belize have signed on to the appellate jurisdiction of the court. That’s less than a third of the CARICOM states, which number 15.

A CCJ statement issued on the occasion of the court’s 10th anniversary quoted Justice Byron, highlighting the words of Trinidad and Tobago calypsonian, Singing Sandra, in her 2005 composition: “to foreign masters you bow, look how them judges in London, making final decisions for we. To their judgment we must keep bowing, most insulting indeed, why to their council we must be privy.”

Whereas the CCJ in its original jurisdiction is the Court of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, to which all member states belong, it is the final appellate court for only Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica – with Dominica joining on only last month.

Sir Dennis notes that since the CCJ’s inception, 160 matters have been filed and 140 disposed in its appellate jurisdiction, while in its original jurisdiction, the court has presided over 18 disputes arising under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, with 16 having been disposed.

“Perhaps what is even more significant about the work of the court during the period is the fact that it is increasing, as was seen by the 67% increase in judgments delivered by the court between 2013 and 2014,” the court says.

On Monday, April 20, the CCJ is set to hear its first criminal appeal from Belize, in the case of Gregory August versus the Queen. On Tuesday, it is set to hear a case out of Guyana. Also, it is finally set to hear the civil appeal of 23 Maya villages of Toledo and the Toledo Alcaldes Association against the Government of Belize on Wednesday and Thursday.

The CCJ added that it is “…set to embark on a training programme in Belize next week when the Court holds sittings there, making Belize the fourth country to host CCJ sittings outside of the Court’s headquarters here in Trinidad.”

Next Monday, the CCJ will also commemorate its 10th year with a photographic exhibition depicting the history of the Court at the headquarters of the CCJ in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

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