In what is being considered a landmark judgment, seven CCJ judges ruled that Barbados breached the rights of Jamaican Shanique Myrie to enter that country when she arrived at the Grantley Adams International Airport on March 14, 2011.
The CCJ has awarded Myrie Bds$77,240 (US$38,620 or J$3.6 million) in pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. She was seeking Bds$1 million in damages. Yesterday’s delivery of judgment was given by video conference from Trinidad, with Myrie and her attorneys at the Supreme Court in Jamaica, while Barbados’ attorneys listened at Barbados’ Supreme Court. The Executive Summary of the ruling was delivered by CCJ president Sir Dennis Byron.
The court declared that the Barbados government breached Myrie’s right to enter the country under article 45 of the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. Myrie has been reported in Jamaican media as saying she was “excited and overjoyed” by the ruling.
Myrie said the ruling should serve as a lesson to other Jamaicans not to remain silent when they are wronged. She said she had no plans to go back to Barbados, but added that she would not discourage others from going.
Myrie also said her life had changed since her ordeal became public in 2011. She took the Barbados government to the CCJ alleging that she was discriminated against because of her nationality when she arrived in Barbados on March 14, 2011. She was 22 at the time of the incident.
The 25-year-old also claimed she was subjected to a body-cavity search in unsanitary and demeaning conditions before being detained and deported the next day to Jamaica. The Barbados government denied the claims and argued at the hearing that the Jamaican woman had been untruthful to Immigration Department officials.
In their ruling, judges Sir Dennis and Justices Rolston Nelson, Adrian Saunders, Desiree Bernard, Jacob Wit, David Hayton and Winston Anderson, rejected Barbados’ submission that the articles of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas relating to refusal of entry were not domestically binding.
It pointed out that the purpose of Article 30 of the RTC was to allow member states, as part of their sovereignty, to reserve public service positions strictly for their own nationals and was not intended to limit the right to free movement or prevent the court from subjecting to judicial scrutiny the actions of officials in the exercise of their duties in context of the RTC.
“If binding regional decisions can be invalidated at the Community level by the failure on the part of a particular State to incorporate those decisions locally, the efficacy of the entire Caricom regime would be jeopardised,” the judges held.
The CCJ also laid down guidelines which all Caricom states had to follow in their treatment of Caribbean nationals entering each others’ member states. The court held where a Caricom national is refused entry into a member state on a legitimate ground, that person must be given the opportunity to consult an attorney, a consular official of his or her own country or be able to contact a family member.
Written reasons for refusing entry are also required to be given promptly to the national refused entry.
In an immediate reaction, Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Trinidad Sharon Saunders said yesterday’s ruling was a victory for Shanique Myrie and Jamaica as the regional court had validated Myrie’s claims.
“That was the objective. The award of damages was secondary,” she said. Hailing it as a landmark judgment, she said the court had been very fair in its assessment of the evidence and arguments presented in the case.
Lead attorney for the Barbados government Roger Forde QC, suggested that the ruling now gave Caricom nationals the power to, “just walk into each other’s country, like in the European Community.”
The CCJ’s decision is final and cannot be challenged.