BU has resisted writing – up to now – about the Shanique Myrie matter. Many disagreed with Shanique Myrie’s legal advisors who made the decision to access the Caribbean Court Justice (CCJ) to rule on her (Myrie) right to move freely under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. After yesterday’s ruling by the CCJ to give special leave to Myrie to argue her case before the court, she must feel vindicated. This is against the background that many of our local legal beavers had opined that the CCJ has no jurisdiction in the matter until the case came to them on appeal from the Barbados courts. Barbados because we are a member of Caricom is bound by the interpretation of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in all matters as it relates to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
If we suck all of the emotion out of the matter, the Shanique Myrie versus the Government of Barbados case will be followed with great interest across the region. To what extent will this case threaten the discretion which traditionally has been exercised by officers at ports of entry in Caricom countries? If Myrie continues her winning ways, it potentially could provoke some countries who are signatories, to question obligations under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramus as it relates to free movement of people.
To rub salt into the wound for some Myrie was awarded cost. To be fair it should be noted that at this stage the CCJ has given special leave to hear this matter i.e. the CCJ believes there is a case to be made. Myrie’s legal team now has to argue the case.
The following is reproduced from the Barbados Advocate and gives a good summary of the special sitting of the CCJ on the matter.
CCJ rules Shanique Myrie has ‘arguable’ case
By Allison Ramsay
Jamaican national Shanique Myrie has been granted special leave to commence proceedings against the Barbados Government by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Sir Charles Dennis Byron, made this announcement at yesterday’s special sitting of the CCJ in Barbados to a packed Supreme Court 1 at the Supreme Court Building, Bridgetown, St. Michael, nearly three hours after the start of proceedings at 10 a.m.
After deliberating with The Hon. Mr. Justice Winston Anderson, The Hon. Mr. Justice Rolston Nelson, The Hon. Mr. Justice Jacob Wit and The Hon. Mme Justice Desiree Bernard, Sir Charles in his response to the arguments made by Michelle Brown, attorney-at-law for the applicant and lead counsel of Barbados’ legal team, attorney-at-law Roger Forde, QC said that the Justices’ obligation was to determine if the case was arguable and the “obligation to determine this issue was made simpler by the fact that the respondent has conceded that this is at least an arguable issue…”
Sir Charles granted Myrie’s legal team 14 days to file the application and granted the applicant the cost of filing the application. He noted that had the concessions been made before the proceedings had commenced, the cost of having the hearing would have been reduced.
It is expected that July may be the earliest that this case is called before the CCJ.
Basing her arguments on the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and the CARICOM conference decision of 2007, Brown argued for 90 minutes that Myrie was denied right of entry and that denial was “unjustifiable, arbitrary and thus led to discrimination.”
Brown recounted Myrie’s allegation that on March 14, 2011, her client, then 22 years old, was originally allowed entry for a month when her passport was stamped but then two hours later found herself upstairs in a bathroom where she was allegedly finger raped by a female Immigration officer, abused with foul language, threatened and then denied entry into Barbados.
She said that Myrie, who intended to visit a friend for two weeks, still is unsure to this day what she did, what was the aim of denial of entry and the two alleged cavity searches. Brown further stated that bringing the case to the CCJ was the direct and best route in terms of time and cost.
Forde made his submission in about 20 minutes. Stating that he was not going to waste the Court’s time, he conceded that there was an “arguable case.” He explained to the media following the announcement, “I did not concede that she would succeed on the merits, but she has an arguable case. In that arguable case, she would state all of her facts, we would state ours and there is where it goes.” “Arguable does not mean you are right. When two people are in court, they both have arguable cases – but only one person wins,” Forde continued.
“The Court gave her permission to file that claim. The Court made no determination on it. Low threshold means that you have something that can be argued. It does not mean you would succeed in essence,” he said.
When asked her reaction to the outcome, Brown told the media: “We are very happy with the ruling. We met all the obligations we needed to make to argue the case that will be presented in Trinidad or wherever the CCJ meets. We presented the facts to keep the Court foregrounded and to keep the facts alive.” She said that Myrie feels “very happy now but is still anxious about what is going to happen in the future.”
A reserved Myrie arrived at the Supreme Court about 9:40 a.m. with her lawyers Brown and Marc Ramsay. O’Neil Francis appeared for the Attorney General’s Office in Jamaica. Myrie, dressed in a black pants suit, listened intently in the front row of the public gallery to the entire proceedings. Her lawyers embraced each other after it was announced that the special leave was granted.
Barbados’s legal team was comprised of Patterson Cheltenham, QC; Dr. David Berry, Senior Lecturer International Law and Caribbean Integration Law and Deputy Dean (Academic) at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus and Donna Brathwaite of the Attorney General’s Office.
Sir Charles commended the Court for the high quality of professionalism exhibited.
The Court comprised of members of the legal fraternity, Government officials and others who were eager to witness the CCJ in operation in a space other than Trinidad and Tobago and to hear proceedings on this particular issue that has sparked controversy and debate on relations between Barbados and Jamaica.