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Jun 10, 2016

CCJ Dismisses Maurice Tomlinson’s Immigration Case

Maurice Tomlinson

There is a much anticipated judgment tonight from the Caribbean Court of Justice. The CCJ has set aside a claim brought by gay rights activist Maurice Tomlinson against the governments of Belize and Trinidad and Tobago.  The immigration case was filed in 2013 and required the CCJ to make a ruling on state legislation that contradicts CARICOM obligations on the free movement of nationals.  Tomlinson, an attorney-at-law, applied for special leave to bring a case against both countries, alleging that his freedom to enter Belize and Trinidad and Tobago without hassle and harassment had been prejudiced.  The Immigration Act in those jurisdictions, he asserts, maintains an express prohibition on the entry of homosexuals.  At the time of his application, Tomlinson premised his right of entry on Article Forty-six of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which allows skilled community nationals to enter CARICOM member states in order to seek employment.  Justices on the bench included CCJ President Dennis Byron, Rolston Nelson, Adrian Saunders, Jacob Wit and Winston Charles Anderson.

 

Dennis Byron, President, CCJ

“Both states accept Tomlinson’s right of entry into their territories and the requested declaration in those terms hardly advances matters.  The court holds that Tomlinson has no valid reason to assume that his rights will not be respected by these states.  The reasons for this conclusion are twofold: first, state practice in relation to Section 51E of the Belize Immigration Act and Section 81E of the Trinidad & Tobago Immigration Act does not suggest any incompatibility with the RTC or the 2007 conference decision.  Secondly, the practice or policy of admitting homosexual nationals from other CARICOM states not falling under the two exceptions mentioned in the 2007 conference decision is not a matter of discretion but is legally required based on Article Nine of the RTC, as this is an appropriate measure within the meaning of that provision.  Given the transformation of this treaty provision into domestic law, this legal requirement equally exists within the domestic legal order of the members states, notwithstanding a real or apparent contradictory provision in the national immigration act. The court takes into account part thirty-one… which states that in exceptional circumstances the court may order that the costs be shared or that the parties bear their own costs.”

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