Guyana continues to lead in the number of matters filed in the Appellate Jurisdiction of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). For the 1 August 2020 – 31 July 2021 judicial year, 19 cases were filed from Guyana, 15 from Barbados, four from Belize, and three from Dominica. In its Appellate Jurisdiction, the CCJ is the final court of appeal for criminal and civil matters for the abovementioned Caribbean Community (Caricom) member states.
The total number of matters filed for the reporting period is 41— 63 per cent were civil cases while 37 per cent were criminal. According to the CCJ, this is a 173.33 per cent increase in new matters filed compared to?the previous year, August 1, 2019-July 31, 2020, in which 15 matters were filed—14 Applications for Special Leave and a Notice of Appeal.
Seven of the cases filed were from Barbados, three from Belize, one from Dominica, and four from Guyana.
In that reporting period, 60 per cent of the matters were civil, while 40 per cent were criminal.
The August 1, 2019-July 31, 2020 judicial year saw a 59 per cent decrease in new matters filed in the court’s Appellate Jurisdiction when compared to 2018-2019.
This was due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the court’s Original Jurisdiction, two matters were filed by Trinidad and Tobago and one each by Antigua and Barbuda and Belize in the 1 August 2020 – 31 July 2021 judicial year. During 2019-2020, one matter each was filed from Barbados, Dominica, and Guyana.
In its Original Jurisdiction, it is an international court with exclusive authority to interpret and apply the rules set out in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC) and to decide disputes arising under it. The RTC established Caricom and the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME). In its Original Jurisdiction, the CCJ is critical to the CSME and all 12 Member States which belong to the CSME (including citizens, businesses, and governments) can access the court’s Original Jurisdiction to protect their rights under the RTC. The CCJ was inaugurated on April 16, 2005.
While addressing a University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus law seminar last month, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, praised the CCJ for what he described as “highly commendable” rulings in matters, in particular, those of a high constitutional nature and on politically tense issues coming from Guyana.
Nandlall asserted that the addition of the CCJ to the country’s judicial structure has been revolutionary. He pointed out that the benefits Guyanese have derived already from the CCJ are certainly immeasurable when it comes to very important, and highly tense political issues.
“Outside of that, in land law, in particular, we’ve had a great amount of equivocation, ambiguity, and confusion on the area of land law in particular Roman-Dutch law. Those issues were completely clarified by the CCJ in a series of decisions.”
When it comes to commercial litigation, he said the CCJ has provided great clarity on several issues in its pronouncements. In constitutional matters and matters related to election laws, the CCJ has clarified very crucial and highly contentious issues, said the Attorney General.
He noted, “It [the CCJ] has been a great blessing for Guyana and the people of Guyana.”