BELIZE CITY, Wed. Jan. 28, 2015–Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit announced this week that his country plans to make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) its final appellate court next month, February.
The CCJ was established in 2001, and on February 15, 2003, Dominica signed the agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice. The court was formally inaugurated in April 2005.
Belize, Guyana and Barbados are the only three countries of CARICOM which have abolished the Privy Council and made the CCJ their final appellate court.
Although the court is headquartered in Trinidad, that country has not yet ascribed to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ.
Skerrit explained that although there are some administrative matters which have to be taken into consideration, he expects the court to come into full effect for Dominica by early February 2015.
He added, “…this is one of the historic opportunities for Dominica and it would mean allowing our ordinary citizens to have greater access to the judiciary system. So we are very keen on seeing the operationalization of the court in its final jurisdiction for the Commonwealth of Dominica.”
Dominica’s move to sever from the London-based Privy Council began more than a year ago. Making the Caribbean court fully operational in Dominica would mean changes to its domestic legislation to give the CCJ the jurisdiction which the Privy Council now has for hearing final appeals.
Sir Dennis Byron, CCJ President, issued a statement Wednesday saying, “The Court welcomes this historic move for the Eastern Caribbean state and anticipates the finalization of the legislative processes to make the CCJ Dominica’s final court of appeal.”
Byron added that, “With ten years already on its heels, the CCJ stands ready to serve the people of Dominica in providing greater accessibility to final justice in a manner that engenders the public’s trust and confidence in judicial services.”
Currently, all subscribing CARICOM nations which are parties to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, establishing the Caribbean Single Market and Economy fall under the original jurisdiction of the CCJ.
The CCJ explains that, “Under the Original Jurisdiction, the CCJ judges are the only judges in the world who can hear cases dealing with how our countries must act and what we are or are not allowed to do, under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas….
“In its Appellate Jurisdiction, the Caribbean Court of Justice hears appeals from courts in civil and in criminal cases. These appeals are from courts of those CARICOM countries which no longer go to a court in England called Her Majesty’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Being a final Court of Appeal means that the decision of that Court is FINAL.”