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Sep 6, 2017

Bar president points to landmark C.C.J. decision on tenure

Priscilla Banner

Banner referred us to the Bar’s case against the Government decided in their favor earlier this year in the Caribbean Court of Justice concerning tenure of judges and also setting out guidelines for appointment.  She also noted that a specific body in the Caribbean appoints C.C.J. judges and the similarly named Judicial and Legal Services Commission appoints Supreme Court judges. But the Court of Appeal which sits between the two is limited to the judgment of the Prime Minister, which she says needs to change.

 

Priscilla Banner, President, Bar Association of Belize

“The Caribbean Court of Justice has considered the issue as to how Justices of the Court of Appeal ought to be appointed. In a decision given by the C.C.J. in February of this year, the C.C.J. has laid down guidelines that should be adopted by the Government of Belize, so that should be very instructive, and it should be an independent and impartial process; in essence it shouldn’t be a one man show. And we would actually like to engage with the Government of Belize and the Leader of the Opposition in order to have the Government of Belize implement those very solid guidelines that were laid down by the Caribbean Court of Justice, and that is the case of the Bar Association of Belize against the Attorney General. There is a regional judicial and legal services commission which appoints judges of the Caribbean Court of Justice; the judicial and legal services commission of Belize deals with the appointment of judges of the Supreme Court. Absolutely, we say that there should be a similar body, independent, impartial, that is appointed to look at the qualifications of justices of appeal and to deal with those appointments, not only to ensure that persons that are qualified are appointed, but to ensure that there is proper security of tenure in those appointments. So we would absolutely advocate for such a body to be established, and if you would look at the guidelines laid down by the Caribbean Court of Justice in the case of the Bar Association against the Attorney General, the decision, you would see that some of these very guidelines are outlined by the Caribbean Court of Justice.”

 

Banner noted that proper qualification, in the Bar’s view, is more important than necessarily having a complement of Belizeans on the Court. Currently, the President of the Court is Belizean Manuel Sosa, but a majority of its members are foreign-born although some like Justices Minnet Hafiz-Bertram and Samuel Awich have long worked in Belize and maintain residences here.

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