Arrangements are moving ahead to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) by the second half of the year as well as steps to heighten awareness about the court among the peoples of the community including the regional judiciary.
Next month the Caribbean Development Bank is expected to approve raising US$100M on the capital market which it will lend to the CARICOM states to make their contributions to the trust fund for financing the operations of the Court.
The member states will be contributing to the trust fund in the same proportion as they do to the funding of the work of the CARICOM Secretariat.
At the same time arrangements are being put in place to bring the Regional Judicial Services Commission into being.
The Commission will be responsible for the recruitment and appointment of the judges to sit on the court and the other support staff.
The head of the CCJ Project Unit at the CARICOM Secretariat, Sheldon McDonald briefed the media yesterday at the Court of Appeal on the upcoming Conference of Chief Magistrates of the member states in Georgetown this weekend at Hotel Tower and the CARICOM Secretariat.
The conference will run from January 25-26, under the patronage of Chancellor of the Judiciary, Desiree Bernard. Its theme is “The Magistracy and the Caribbean Court of Justice: Challenges, Prospects and Opportunities for Judicial Enhancement.
Chancellor Bernard who hosted the press briefing said that all the Chief Magistrates have been invited including those from the civil law jurisdictions of Suriname and Haiti. Suriname and Haiti have accepted the original jurisdiction of the CCJ where international law is applied equally in common law as well as civil law jurisdictions.
The Chief Justice of Belize Abdulai O Conteh will deliver the keynote address at the opening session and the other speakers during that session will be CARICOM Secretary-General, Edwin Carrington and Chancellor Bernard. The Chancellor will be the keynote speaker at the closing session of the meeting on Sunday.
Other speakers during the two-day meeting include Attorney-General Doodnauth Singh SC who will present a paper on the “Structure and Function of the CCJ in its Appellate Jurisdiction”, Legal Consultant to CARICOM, Duke Pollard whose paper will be on the law in Regional Economic Development and the Original Jurisdiction of the CCJ, and McDonald who will deliver a paper on the Referral Procedure in the Agreement Establishing the CCJ.
Other presentations will be made by Sir Denis Byron, Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court on Regionalisation of the Judiciary: Potential Impact of the CCJ; and The Magistracy in a Civil Law Jurisdiction by Suriname High Court Judge, Cynthia Valstein-Montnor. Chief Justice Carl Singh will deliver a paper on the Possibilities for Harmonisation of the Procedures of the Magistracy in the Community and Principal of the Norman Manley Law School, Keith Sobian will deliver another on Legal Education, the Magistracy and the CCJ.
McDonald explained too that there would be sessions devoted to discussions of the various topics, as the aim of the conference organisers is to have some definitive conclusions adopted. A workshop in which the participants are to be grouped by zones is being organised for this purpose.
Chancellor Bernard said that one advantage of the meeting would be that it would allow for interaction between the magistrates.
Referring to the value of the regional meeting, Chancellor Bernard disclosed that last year she had reached agreement with the Chief Justice of Jamaica for a number of Jamaican judges to come to Guyana during the holiday recess to help reduce the backlog of cases. However, she said that the arrangement was frustrated because of the absence of a functioning Judicial Service Commission here.
The Conference at the weekend was preceded by a meeting of the national co-ordinators for the establishment of the CCJ. A communiqué from the CCJ Project Unit said that the meeting addressed issues such as the importance of the CCJ, the communications dimension, and the status of the arrangements for bringing the Court into being, particularly as it relates to the actions to be taken at the national and regional levels.
It said, too, that an intensified public education programme is to be launched this year and donor support has been secured for the exercise. (Patrick Denny)