By Marcia Braveboy
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- In a landmark judgment, delivered at the court’s headquarters in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on Friday, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) awarded Jamaican national, Shanique Myrie, Bds$75,000 (US$37,500) damages to be paid by the government of Barbados. The CCJ found that Myrie had been wrongfully denied entry into Barbados, subjected to a humiliating cavity search and unlawfully detained overnight in a cell and expelled from Barbados.
Shanique Myrie (Jamaica Gleaner photo)
Myrie had instituted proceedings in May 2012, alleging that Barbados had violated her right to free movement within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). She also claimed that she was subjected to discrimination on the ground of her nationality when Barbadian officials refused her entry into Barbados on March 14, 2011. The government of Jamaica joined in the proceedings and at the trial supported Myrie’s claims.
Myrie claimed that in the course of refusing her entry into Barbados she was subjected to a body cavity search and to deplorable detention conditions. She gave evidence, which was corroborated by Jamaican medical practitioners, that the treatment she received continues to cause her post-traumatic stress.
The court rejected Myrie’s claim that she was discriminated against on account of her nationality but found for her on the other claims. In the course of its judgment, the CCJ held that CARICOM nationals are entitled to enter CARICOM member states, without harassment or the imposition of impediment, and to stay for up to six months.
This right, the court stated, was derived from the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC) and a 2007 CARICOM decision made at the twenty-eighth meeting of the conference of heads of government of CARICOM. The right requires member states to give the refused person written reasons for the refusal and also to advise them of their entitlement to access meaningful judicial review.
The right may be denied only where the receiving state establishes that the visitor is an undesirable person or one likely to become a charge on public funds. The court defined “undesirable” as a person who “poses or can reasonably be expected to pose a genuine present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society”.
The court also ordered Barbados to refund Myrie her medical expenses, her airline ticket and her reasonable legal expenses.
The full judgment of the court is available here
CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron said Shanique Myrie's subjection to the body cavity search by Barbados constituted a serious breach of the standards of treatment applicable to CARICOM nationals. Listen
The court said compensatory damages must be awarded to Myrie as it took into consideration the breach of her right of entry without harassment or the imposition of impediments. Listen
Responding to the decision, Jamaica's high commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados Sharon Saunders hailed the ruling as fair and as a victory for all CARICOM nationals who felt they were unjustly treated. Saunders asserted that it was a landmark decision. Listen
Saunders added where local laws are not in tandem, the community laws and decisions are sacrosanct. Saunders said governments across the region will have to raise the bar. She noted that immigration officials cannot be so rigid in how they operate. Listen
Audio courtesy of i95.5fm radio in Trinidad and Tobago