The Myrie case is heading for the region’s highest court early next year. For those of you who do not know the unfortunate details involved, this case concerns a young Jamaican lady, Shanique Myrie, who was allegedly subjected to a degrading body cavity search at the Grantley Adams International Airport here in Barbados earlier this year. I use the term alleged because in the absence of any substantive information by the two Governments involved, many of the details in this case remain shrouded in a fog of uncertainty and speculation.
In its original jurisdiction the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice has compulsory and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine disputes concerning the interpretation and application of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas Establishing the Caribbean Community Including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. Naturally therefore, it would be within the Court’s competence to deal with the main issue involved here, that is, the freedom of movement of Community nationals, which is one of the pillars of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
An intriguing aspect of the CCJ is that per Article 222 of the Revised Treaty, a person (whether a private individual or company) can, with special leave of the Court, commence proceedings in the Court as a private entity, as opposed to having to rely on its respective State to bring a claim on its behalf. Outside of investor-state dispute settlement, claims brought by private persons in international dispute settlement fora remain a rarity in international law. However, from a quick perusal of the list of judgments on the CCJ’s website, it seems so far that bringing a claim as a private entity is the preferred avenue for commencing proceedings in the CCJ in its original jurisdiction (see the most recent case of Hummingbird Rice Mills Ltd v Suriname for example). This lack of preference for State-to-State dispute settlement was also noted by The Honourable Sir Dennis Byron, President of the CCJ in his recent paper.
Turning back to the case at hand, it appears that this is probably the avenue that counsel for Ms. Myrie’s will be taking. While this may be the more expensive route for the Myrie team, it would arguably prevent the more politically unpalatable and potentially divisive alternative of having two CARICOM States (Barbados and Jamaica) seemingly at loggerheads in our highest regional tribunal. Without doubt, it is regrettable that diplomatic means of dispute settlement have failed to resolve this issue. After all, this case remains a sore point in the relations between the two countries concerned. Moreover, the victim would have to wait longer for justice. However, from an academic standpoint, this case will present an opportunity to see the Court’s treatment of the issue of freedom of movement of CARICOM nationals, as well as the development of the Court’s jurisprudence.
Alicia Nicholls is a trade policy specialist and a law student at the University of the West Indies. You can contact her by email and follow her on Twitter at @Licylaw.