Posted: Friday, May 12, 2023. 11:32 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: On Tuesday, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) officially welcomed Saint Lucia to its fold after Governor-General Errol Charles assented to the Constitution of St Lucia Amendment Act, which was passed in that country’s parliament in March, Trinidad and Tobago Newsday reports.
The amendment means that Saint Lucia now recognizes the CCJ as its final appellate court, and not the Privy Council in London.
Court President Adrian Saunders congratulated the nation: “St Lucia now becomes the fifth Caricom nation to take this defining step and the CCJ welcomes the opportunity to serve the citizens of that country.” He added that the four countries currently sending appeals to the CCJ – Guyana, Barbados, Belize, and Dominica – have seen the volume of cases double in the last year.
This, Saunders continued, has contributed to the dynamism of each country’s jurisprudence and considerably expanded access to justice for the populations of those countries, and “We have no doubt that St Lucia too will have a similar experience.”
Saunders said the CCJ looked forward to more Caricom states making use of the CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction in the future.
Prime Minister Phillip J Pierre said the primary reason for the accession is that “The CCJ will make justice accessible to the people of St Lucia.” Pierre added that ordinary citizens find it difficult to seek legal redress through the Privy Council because the cost is too high.
St Lucia’s opposition, the United Workers Party, did not support the act and called for a referendum. The St Lucian government rejected those calls, saying because of its two-thirds majority in the lower house of parliament, there was no need for a referendum.
The CCJ was established on February 14, 2001 and was intended to be a hybrid institution, serving as a municipal court of last resort and an international court vested with original, compulsory, and exclusive jurisdiction over the interpretation and application of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
But more than 20 years later, most of the major regional countries including the court’s home in Trinidad have quarreled over whether to drop the Privy Council and join the CCJ, initially over concerns the court would back the use of the death penalty.
Trinidad and Tobago only accesses the court in its original jurisdiction, that is, with respect to disputes concerning the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which relates to Caricom.
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