A less than upbeat Barbados legal team emerged from the Supreme Court this morning following the landmark CCJ ruling.
In a brief comment to reporters, lead attorney for the Barbados Government, Roger Forde, QC, said that the court decision effectively says that “you can go any where you want to go (within CARICOM). We can go from state to state whenever you want to without any difficulty. It is like the EU.”
Forde, who led a six member legal team that included Deputy Solicitor General Donna Brathwaite, said: “You can wake up one morning and just go into Trinidad or St Lucia without any restrictions.”
The Queen’s Counsel had little else to say.The two attorneys Gladys Young and Dr Chantal Ononaiwu, who appeared on behalf of the CARICOM Secretariat, declined to comment.
Barbados has been ordered by the Caribbean Court of Justice to pay Jamaican national Shanique Myrie just over $77,000 in special and general damages, plus her “reasonable legal” costs, declaring that she was subjected to a body cavity search at the Grantley Adams International Airport and then unlawfully expelled two years ago.
The 24-year-old woman had filed an action before the CCJ, claiming that when she arrived at the airport on March 14, 2011, she underwent a painful and humiliating body cavity search by a local border official, that her detention cell was insanitary, and that this, and other treatment, amounted to a serious breach of her right of free movement and a violation of her fundamental human rights and freedoms.
Myrie also claimed an entitlement to a right to free movement within the Caribbean Community, specifically a right of entry without any form of harassment, based on the combined effects of Article 45 of the Revised Treaty Of Chaguaramas and a decision of the 2007 Caribbean Heads Of Government Conference.
In a landmark judgement handed down this morning from the CCJ’s Trinidad headquarters via video conference to courtrooms in Barbados and Jamaica, the regional tribunal ruled that this country had breached Myrie’s right to enter Barbados.
”The court ordered Barbados to compensate Ms Myrie in pecuniary (reinbursement for slippers, medical expenses and airline ticket) damages in the sum of BDS$2,240 and non-pecuniary (body cavity search and conditions of detention) damages to the tune of BDS$75,000. The court also ordered Barbados to pay Ms Myrie’s reasonable costs. The court refused all other declarations and orders sought by Ms Myrie and Jamaica,” CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron said in the judgment. In making findings on the controversial and much-talked-about body cavity search and insanitary state of the detention cell, the judges said it was Myrie on whom the burden of proof rested to prove these facts. “And, after examining all the oral and written evidence presented, the court found that she had properly discharged this burden cast upon her,” stated the regional tribunal. The CCJ found that Myrie’s right of entry without harassment or the imposition of impediments, encompassed all that transpired between the time of her arrivial in Barbados and her unlawful expulsion the following day.
”This necessarily included her subjection to the body cavity search and being detained overnight in a cell in deplorable conditions. The court held that this treatment constituted a very serious breach of Ms Myrie’s right to entry, and so, she was entitled to be awarded damages, though not exemplary damages,” declared Sir Dennis.
The court indicated that it had the power to award compensation for non-pecuniary damage under the Revised Treaty Of Chaguaramas. It therefore awarded damages at the high end of the spectrum, appropriate for the breach of the particular right in question, even though in principle, the CCJ President pointed out, the nature of the right of entry would not usually attract hugh damages and
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