(CARICOM Secretariat, Georgetown, Guyana) The Eleventh Special Meeting of the Legal Affairs Committee (LAC) was held at the CARICOM Secretariat, Bank of Guyana Building, Georgetown, Guyana on 15 June 2005.
Ministers in attendance were:
Hon. Justin Simon, Attorney-General, Antigua and Barbuda; Hon. Mia A. Mottley, QC, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Home Affairs and Attorney-General, Barbados; Hon. Ian Douglas, Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Immigration and Labour, Dominica; Hon. Doodnauth Singh, S.C., Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Guyana; Hon. Esco Henry-Greer, Attorney-General, Montserrat; Hon. Delano Bart, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, St. Kitts and Nevis; Hon. Judith Jones-Morgan, Attorney-General, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and H.E. Mr. Seigfried Gilds, Minister of Justice and Police, Suriname.
Solicitor General Mr. Byron St. Michael Hylton represented Jamaica while Mr. Christophe Grant, Chief State Solicitor, represented Trinidad and Tobago.
In a brief opening ceremony, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) His Excellency Edwin Carrington stressed that the work of the LAC is important to the institutional arrangements in the Community.
He stated that the Community’s reliance on the LAC encompasses a range of issues including institutional governance, to which end the Community is awaiting guidance on proposals to reform the Community Council of Ministers to boost the effectiveness of that Organ. He added that the LAC should expect to be called upon to offer direction with regards to instruments to clarify and strengthen the arrangements for governance between the Community and Institutions, Associates Institutions and Observers.
Within the context of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), the Secretary-General reminded of the commitment for the Single Market to be fully operational by 31 December 2005. In this regard, he stressed that the LAC would be called upon to ensure that any remaining restrictions in Member States would be removed to give effect to the CSME in keeping with the implementation timeframe.
The Meeting deliberated on a number of issues for the attention of CARICOM Heads of Government at their upcoming Twenty Sixth Regular Meeting in Saint Lucia early July 2005.
Caribbean Court of Justice
The Meeting welcomed the President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the Rt Hon Justice Michael de la Bastide who said he considered it an honour to be at the Meeting.
He informed that the Court was moving speedily to establish the Rules of Court in both the Original and Appellate Jurisdictions. In the case of the Appellate Jurisdiction, the CCJ President said the Rules of Court had to be placed on the front burner giving that two Member States, Barbados and Guyana have already enacted the legislation to give recognition to the CCJ as their final court. He appealed to the Attorneys-General to ensure that the CCJ is in receipt of all national legislation in relation to the Court. He further appealed to the Attorneys-General to establish mechanisms for effective communication as the CCJ needed to interact with the Region’s Attorneys -General as required.
The Meeting welcomed the report from the CCJ President and further stressed that the CARICOM Secretariat could play a coordinating function in relation to areas such as amendments to required legislation including those relating to privileges and immunities.
The Meeting agreed that the CARICOM Secretariat should continue to play a leading role in public education on the CCJ, if the people of the Region are to embrace the Court and also given its importance in relation to the CSME.
In order to facilitate the free movement of Judges and officials of the Court, and members of the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC) in the exercise of their duties, the LAC recommended that these persons be permitted to use the Laissez Passer, the official travel document for institutions of the Caribbean Community.
The Harmonisation of Law
Mindful of the urgency for treaties that are critical to national security in the Region, the LAC approved two legal agreements. These are the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between Regional Security System (RSS) and non-RSS countries on a Regional Rapid Response Mechanism and the Caribbean Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Serious Criminal Matters which is intended to assist Member States to address the escalation in serious crimes, including transnational organised crime. It was also emphasised that work needed to be done speedily with respect to the draft extradition treaty, which is intended to buttress the efforts that would be necessary as it pertains to national security within the context of the CSME.
The Meeting was updated on the work to draft “Sunset Legislation” in relation to Cricket World Cup 2007. The importance of the legislation to the Region successfully hosting the games was noted. It was emphasised that the Region’s Draftspersons needed to ensure that the “Sunset Legislation” complies with constitutions of the individual CARICOM Member States and do not put governments in a position where measures to be implemented could be considered to be draconian.
It was agreed that a Protocol would be developed for the treatment of immigration and customs matters during CWC 2007 and the Protocol would guide Member States in the incorporation of related matters in the “Sunset Legislation.”
The Meeting received the Report from the Seventh Meeting of the LAC Sub Committee on Harmonisation of Laws. In the Report, it was stated that there is a shortage of drafts persons in the Region and given the volume of work to be done with respect to the harmonisation of legislation, it was agreed that the CARICOM Secretariat would coordinate the setting up of a website to which Member States, in particular, Chief Parliamentary Counsel in general, would have secure access for the sharing of information.
Recognising the impact of globalisation and liberalisation on the delivery of services including education, the LAC recognised the importance of reform in the system of legal education as well as the need for curriculum reform.
The Meeting commended the Working Group on the Reform of Legal Education in the Region. Among the issues identified by the group needing urgent action is the current system of assigning quotas to Members States for the study of law by their nationals at the University of the West Indies (UWI). Linked to this is the quota for entrance at the law schools to attain the certificate in Legal education. The Terms of Reference and Work Plan for the Group were approved by the LAC.
Proposed CARICOM Human Rights Treaty
The LAC agreed to engage a consultant to undertake a study for its consideration, to guide the Community on the options and approaches to the drafting of a Human Rights Treaty.
Granting of Observer Status
The Meeting agreed to a request from the Organisation of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Associations (OCCBA) for observer status at meetings of the LAC.
The Meeting expressed appreciation to the Honourable Doodnauth Singh, S.C., Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Guyana, for his skillful guidance of the Meeting and for the warm hospitality extended by the host country.