BELIZE CITY, Tues. May 12, 2015–In March, Dominica became the fourth country in the Caribbean and the first among members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States to ascribe to the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice, and it appears that Jamaica is poised to become the 5th nation in our region to join by dispensing of the UK-based Privy Council and replacing it with the indigenous court.
In a statement released today, CCJ president, Sir Dennis Byron commented: “The CCJ continues to follow very closely these developments in Jamaica with the highest respect and regard for the local constitutional processes. We look forward with great anticipation to a positive outcome that will ultimately afford Jamaican citizens with greater access to the Caribbean’s Court.”
“This development comes on the heels of the Court’s 10th anniversary celebrations on April 16th, 2015 and just two months after the Commonwealth of Dominica formally celebrated its accession to the Court’s Appellate Jurisdiction. Barbados, Guyana and Belize also enjoy full access to the Court’s judicial services,” the CCJ said.
Voting strictly down party lines, the Lower House of the Jamaican Parliament passed three bills via majority vote, approving the country’s accession to the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) Appellate Jurisdiction. The Senate will be asked next to vote on those bills.
Two bills amend existing laws: the Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction Act) and the Constitution of Jamaica, while the third bill, the Caribbean Court of Justice Bill, seeks to implement the agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice.
The Jamaica Gleaner reports that Jamaica’s Opposition called for a divide on each Bill, and the vote count on each occasion was 42 “yes” votes from the ruling People’s National Party and 21 “no” votes from the Jamaica Labour Party, which is in opposition. Today’s session was attended by all 63 parliamentarians.
Under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, Jamaica, like several other Caribbean countries, already accesses the court in its original jurisdiction, in relation to matters related to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. However, assigning full appellate jurisdiction to the CCJ will mean that the regional court, based in Port of Spain, Trinidad, would hear appeals in civil and criminal matters heard in Jamaica’s domestic courts.
Jamaican national Maurice Tomlinson has filed claims against both Belize and Trinidad in a challenge which he has filed on behalf of the LGBT community to the immigration laws of those countries, under the CCJ’s original jurisdiction, and a decision by the CCJ is pending.