Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Social Issues » Belize welcomes Caribbean Court
Jun 23, 2004

Belize welcomes Caribbean Court

Story Picture
The Caribbean Court of Justice by now should have already handed down judgements in its first cases, but the institution has been bogged down by controversy. In some Caribbean countries the hold-up is over exactly how the C.C.J. will work while in others it involves hesitation in breaking ties with the British Privy Council. And while some people see the Caribbean Court of Justice as a “hanging court” supporters of the concept of an appellate court exclusively for the Caribbean see the C.C.J. as a logical extension of the independence movement. In the case of Belize, a bill is currently before the House of Representatives that seeks to remove the right of appeal to the Privy Council and create a new right of appeal, this time to the Caribbean Court of Justice. A series of countrywide consultations have been taking place since the introduction of the Bill and today Attorney General Eamon Courtenay met with representatives of the business community and media in Belize City to update them on the status of those meetings. Courtenay explained that the series of consultations has not turned up any serious resistance to the C.C.J and said that the coming into force of the court will mark the closure of a colonial era that should not have survived independence in 1981.

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney General

?Anything that is pending before the Privy Council when the law takes effect in Belize will be saved. If leave has been granted in a particular case but it hasn?t yet been heard, that case cannot be transferred to the C.C.J. In other words it will stay with the Privy Council until that is finalized. But once the law is passed, the Privy Council?s jurisdiction to hear appeals from Belize will no longer exist. And I should emphasize that the Privy Council cannot now nor will it be able to interpret the Treaty of Chaguaramas. The appellate jurisdiction deals with criminal, constitutional, civil, matrimonial matters coming from Belize and other member states.?

?As we seek to assert and enforce our rights and to take advantage of the benefits that the Caribbean Single Market affords to Belize, I think it?s also important for the business community, and indeed the wider public, to accept and understand that this is a reciprocal relationship to the extent that we are in violation of our obligations under the treaty other countries, other business houses in member states will seek to enforce their rights. And the Caribbean Court of Justice will provide a forum for Jamaican, Trinidadian, Dominican, St. Lucian firms to seek to ventilate grievances that they may have with Belize.?

A panel of three judges will hear appeals referred to the C.C.J. from member states, but Courtenay explained that there may be times when a single judge will hear arguments from any attorney practicing in the region. In such cases a five man panel will review any decision handed down by the judge.

But while there may be arguments for and against the break from the Privy Council, Courtenay told the gathering that the day may be fast approaching when the Judicial Committee itself will be a thing of the past.

Eamon Courtenay

?Most Commonwealth member states, that when they became independent, retained the Privy Council as their final appellate jurisdiction, have left the Privy Council. It is a minority of independent Commonwealth countries that still uses the Privy Council as a final appellate court. And I think we should understand that that has ramifications and significance for what is happening in London. By that, I mean the Labour Party government of the United Kingdom has announced earlier this year I believe it was, a major reform of its own judicial system leading to the creation of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Now in announcing that reform nothing was said specifically about the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in terms of its future. But I think anyone who wants to read the tea leaves will see that it is unlikely that this institution, which existed simply to assist the colonial powers to resolve disputes from its colonies in the metropole, will succeed in the 21st century for much longer.?

Belize, like other countries subscribing to the C.C.J., will be required to pay a three point seven million U.S. dollar, one time set up fee. Funding for that setting up of the C.C.J will be facilitated by a loan from the Caribbean Development Bank. The C.C.J. Bill 2003 and the Belize Constitution Fifth Amendment Bill 2004 are expected to go to the House of Representatives for their second reading next week.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

Advertise Here

You must be logged in to post a comment Login