The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is taking to social media to combat misinformation and reach ordinary Caribbean people about the regional court.
CCJ President Justice Adrian Saunders revealed the plan at an event in Barbados, ahead of the court’s 14-year anniversary tomorrow.
Justice Saunders said in a lecture on Friday at the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill that “ineffective communication” was partly responsible for the failure of referenda in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada in which voters rejected proposals to make the CCJ the final court of appeal there.
Only four CARICOM member states – Barbados, Dominica, Belize and Guyana – have signed on to the court’s appellate jurisdiction.
All 15 member states accept the CCJ’s original jurisdiction as arbiter of the CARICOM Treaty.
Justice Saunders stressed that while the Port of Spain-based court is not doing away with traditional media it was looking to shore up its education and information efforts.
He said: “I really do think that the court needs to adopt more innovative ways of reaching people. The traditional ways are good, but you don’t reach a lot of people in those traditional ways. The court does have a Twitter account . . . but it’s one of the areas that we need to pay greater attention to.”
The Vincentian jurist touted the CCJ’s accomplishments in Caribbean jurisprudence, citing several Barbados cases as examples.
These include Nervais and Severin v The Queen in which the court struck down the mandatory death penalty and last year’s election controversy involving St Lucian Professor Eddy Ventose, who successfully challenged the denial of his right to vote in General Elections as a Commonwealth citizen despite meeting the necessary legal requirements.
Also noted was the Shanique Myrie v Barbados case in which the Jamaican was treated unfairly on arrival at the Grantley Adams International Airport and denied entry as a CARICOM national. She was also awarded costs in the landmark ruling in her favour.
Justice Saunders said: “One of the things that we’re very proud of is that every judgment that we have delivered in the original jurisdiction has been obeyed by the member states of Caricom. In the case of Myrie, she was paid damages that the court found against Barbados.”
But despite these successes, the CCJ president said overcoming negative perceptions by many in the Caribbean remains a major challenge.
As a result, he said UWI law students and others, who are more equipped with knowledge about the court, needed to become advocates.
To put the work done by the regional court in further context, he compared the number of Barbados cases decided by the CCJ between 2016 and 2018 to those by the Privy Council on behalf of Jamaica for the same period.
The CCJ president said: “In Barbados, in 2016, we heard and decided 11 cases; in 2016, Jamaica, which has ten times the population of Barbados, only had their final court determine three cases. In 2017, Barbados’ final court heard and determined seven cases; Jamaica’s final court did a little better than us that year as it heard and determined eight cases. In 2018, Barbados’ final court heard and determined eight matters; the Privy Council heard and determined three matters for Jamaica.”
The presentation by Justice Saunders was titled Seeing From Near; Judging From Far: The Caribbean Court of Justice.
It was part of the Eminent Speakers Lecture Series, and was organised by the UWI Cave Hill Law Society in association with the Cave Hill Faculty of Law and the Cave Hill Guild of Students.
“Judging from far doesn’t have a geographical value…. It means you must be objective, detached, unbiased. It’s a mental construct and so any court that sits thousands of miles away from where the dispute emanates and where the parties to the dispute come from cannot be as effective as a court that is from the environment from which the dispute emerges,” Justice Saunders said.