Shanique Myrie elated at CCJ rulingChanges to impact CARICOM nationalsLivern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
THE LANDMARK ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the Shanique Myrie case could mean sweeping changes to the way Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals are treated while travelling throughout the region.
In its judgment handed down in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and streamed live in the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston yesterday, the CCJ outlined the benchmark treatment that CARICOM nationals should enjoy while moving across the region.
Myrie, who reported that she was subjected to a painful and humiliating body-cavity search in unsanitary conditions at the Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados two years ago, was awarded BD$77,240 (J$4,007,983) in pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.
"[With regard to] the body-cavity search to which she said she was subjected and the circumstances under which this cavity search allegedly took place, it was Miss Myrie on whom the burden of proof rested to prove these facts. And after examining all the oral and written evidence presented, the court found that she had properly discharged this burden," the CCJ found.
MESSAGE FOR JAMAICA
After the verdict, Myrie, surrounded by her attorneys and family members, said she was happy with the outcome.
"I want to tell Jamaica, always speak up for your rights … . Speak up about your rights and you will get justice," she told reporters.
"It's not about the money, it's about equal rights and justice," she insisted.
The six-member panel noted the 2007 decision of the CARICOM heads of government to allow member states to limit the free movement of persons considered "undesirables" or likely to become "a charge on the public purse", but made it clear "this entitlement must be construed as an exception to the right of entry".
"Consequently, the scope of the refusal and the grounds on which it should be based must be interpreted narrowly and strictly, and the burden of proof must rest on the member state that seeks to invoke either ground," the court found.
"The concept of undesirability must be concerned with the protection of public morals, the maintenance of public order and safety, and the protection of life and health," it added.
"The visiting national must present a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society. The threat posed should, at the very least, be one to do something prohibited by national law," the CCJ said.
The six-member panel also ruled that where a CARICOM national is refused entry into a member state on a legitimate ground, that individual should be given the opportunity to consult an attorney or a consular official from their own country or to contact a family member.
"In this context, this principle requires member states to give, promptly and in writing, reasons for refusing entry to a Community national," the CCJ declared.
"The receiving state is also obliged to inform the refused Community national of his or her right to challenge the decision," it continued.
As a result, the judges said they expect Barbados to interpret and apply its domestic laws liberally so as to harmonise them with CARICOM or, if this is not possible, to alter them.