Legal updates and commentary
The Caribbean Court of Justice on March 4, 2013 began hearing the case of Shanique Myrie, a Jamaican woman who alleges that she was unlawfully denied entry to Barbados on March 14, 2011, because of her nationality and that she was subjected to degrading treatment including an illegal cavity search.
Day one of the proceedings saw Myrie’s lawyers making opening statements, while Myrie’s witness statement was admitted to evidence, following which attorneys for the state of Barbados began to cross examine her.
Opening statements were made by Myrie’s lawyers, Michelle Brown and Nancy Anderson.
Anderson told the Court that the case was about two of the most important rights at the level of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) as set out in the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which governs the operation of CARICOM, freedom of movement, and freedom from discrimination on the basis of nationality.
The case, she said, is also about one young woman travelling for the first time to another Caribbean country, who arrived there on March 14, 2011, and experienced a pleasant first few minutes in that country. She was then escorted to a waiting area, interrogated by two police officers from the drug squad seeking to ascertain if she was a drug courier, and subjected to an embarrassing, painful and offensive cavity search, Anderson said.
The treatment was in breach of the government of Barbados’ international obligations, and its obligations under the Treaty. She said there was only one reason for the suspicion of Myrie, that of her nationality,
Brown, dealing with the legal issues relating to the case, said that the court will be asked to interpret three aspects of the Treaty, in relation to freedom of movement, a guarantee that the Treaty rights of CARICOM nationals must be observed, and that fundamental human rights of CARICOM nationals must be observed.
She said it must be the standard that all CARICOM nationals be treated with respect and that they should expect to be treated with respect.
She stressed that under the Treaty, there should be no discrimination against CARICOM nationals based on nationality, and that Jamaican nationals ought to be treated in the same way as Barbadian nationals.
She said that when Jamaicans arrive in Barbados “there should be no sniffer dogs if the same treatment is not meted out to other nationals.”
The Court will be asked to find that fundamental human rights in international law should also be recognized in Community law.
Myrie is seeking declarations that Barbados has breached its obligations under the Treaty, that her rights were violated and that she is entitled to damages in compensation. She is also seeking an apology from the government of Barbados.