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Commentary: Corruption at the CCJ?
Published on April 4, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Cabral Douglas BA, LL.B

"Hostile, emotional and irrational..." are just some of the unsavoury adjectives used by Emile Ferdinand QC to describe me in a recent interview. Indeed, the senior Caribbean jurist came out swinging in defence of Sir Dennis Byron, and his colleagues at the CCJ, in defence against corruption allegations levelled against them by me in a recent WINFM interview.

Cabral Douglas is an attorney at law and part owner of Dominica’s oldest entertainment venue, the Arbeedee Cinema, which has been hosting events since 1973
In the interview I called the integrity of the court into question due to several irregularities arising from the most absurd decision in the Tommy Lee Sparta matter where the court ruled the private entity who contracted to receive entertainment services from a Jamaican firm in a sector approved by the heads of government, has no standing at the CCJ to bring a lawsuit against Dominica.

The government of Dominica without just cause, decided to deny entry, arrest, detain and deport Tommy Lee and his Jamaican entourage, causing the cancellation of the concert the applicant was hosting at his privately owned entertainment venue in Portsmouth, Dominica.

According to Mr Ferdinand in his defence of the integrity of the court, when Sir Dennis Byron was president of the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda he would regularly meet with United Nations officials, therefore there is nothing irregular or abnormal about Sir Dennis Byron meeting with the heads of government in Guyana.

I must say that I was quite shocked to hear such an eminent legal luminary from our region putting forward such a ridiculous argument.

The UN Security Council is the body that set up the International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda, and was responsible for its administration, so yes, it would be normal for Sir Dennis Byron to update them, but in this case, Cabral Douglas v Dominica, Dominica is the defendant in the case!

In other words, they are the ones that are on trial...

Is Mr Ferdinand QC suggesting that it would be normal/acceptable for Sir Dennis Byron to privately meet with the African warlords on trial for committing genocide and other crimes against humanity while the trial was in progress?

How could it be normal/acceptable for any judge at any level to be meeting with a defendant in a case, while the case is in progress/pending? Then to make matters worse, in this instance, Sir Dennis Byron announces that the court will be ruling in favour of the defendant, on the most dubious grounds I might add, on the very same morning of that meeting!

What you are seeing is the appearance of corruption at the highest level, which brings the CCJ as a court into disrepute, and has absolutely nothing to with sour grapes on the part of the applicant, as suggested by Emile Ferdinand, QC.

Sir Dennis Byron knows very well that he could never do that in the white man's court, and this is exactly what I referred to as the "slave" mentality in my case commentary entitled: Nothing Could be Further From the Truth.

If Sir Dennis Byron had embroiled himself in such shenanigans in a white man's court, he is too educated and experienced not to know that a mistrial would be declared immediately, he would be investigated and removed from the case, and the case would be tried over again, causing a big scandal, and a loss of confidence in the court by the public.

But because of the slave mentality that has been internalized by our legal fraternity in the region, instead of seeking to maintain the integrity of the court by calling for the immediate resignation of Sir Dennis Byron, you hear prominent QCs telling the people of the Caribbean that judges meeting with defendants during trials against them is normal!

On what planet is that normal?

In any credible court in the civilized world there would be at least an investigation into this by an impartial commission.

And, for those like Emile Ferdinand QC and others who argue that our regional court is credible and no different from the Privy Council in England, here is your big chance to prove it by joining me in holding the CCJ to the same standard that the Privy Council and other credible courts around the world are held to, which is exactly what I'm calling for here.

For starters: In what capacity did Sir Dennis Byron attend the CARICOM heads of government meeting? Was the pending case discussed at the meeting? Did Sir Dennis Byron meet with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit privately? Did Sir Dennis Byron meet with CARICOM secretary general, and Dominican national, Irvin LaRocque? If so, was the case discussed? Did Roosevelt Skerritt and/or LaRocque have an undue influence on the decision? Is there any significance to the fact that the decision was announced in the very morning of 16 February 2017 when the meeting took place?

If Sir Dennis Byron is asking Caribbean countries to delink from a century old credible institution of justice like the Privy Council in favour of the CCJ, on the premise that the CCJ is a credible court, then I think it would be reasonable to expect him to start conducting the affairs of the court in a credible and transparent manner, in order to earn the confidence of the people of the region.
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Lovely Lady:

The entire Justice system in the caribbean is tainted. Judges should not be appointed to work in their homeland but it happens. Justice should not depend on the personality before the court, but it happens; Judges should not be appointed by friendship but it happens, Laws are twisted to serve the occasion; Judges pander to the state and the citizens are denied justice despite clear evidence by state agents of wrongdoing. The Privy Council represents our last semblance of hope its expensive but it needs to remain.


I do not purport to know or to even believe the factual circumstances surrounding the matter discussed above so I wish to make a broad statement concerning the CCJ. My concern with the CCJ being the court of last resort in all legal matters for our Caribbean countries stems from the fact that the Caribbean region still has very weak democratic institutions. The proper functioning / operation of democratic institutions is left to the whims and fancy of the government of the day. There is no institution, national or supranational, that has the ability (even if authority) to call rogue institutions to account.

A prime example of the unbridled corrupting/undermining of our democratic tradition/progress is the conduct of a number of rogue Parliaments in the region. While I admit that corruption may exist in any court in any jurisdiction, the kind of atrocities that are occurring in many of our countries, including in our judicial systems, could not have happened in developed countries without sharp reprimand and firm censure from watchdog groups, NGOs, etc. This is what regulates institutions like the court that seem to have infinite power to affect the lives of individuals and businesses. Little people get crushed for blowing the whistle because higher-ups are too important to have ordinary people shine a light in the dark corners they occupy.


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