Courts in the Caribbean are facing increased threats to their stability, independence and survival, according to Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Judge Winston Anderson.
He made the comment during the opening ceremony of the First Hemispheric Meeting of Regional Courts at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port-of-Spain yesterday.
Anderson said these threats have left some courts on the brink of collapse.
“Others have collapsed. The Americas probably have more regional courts than other areas of the world, and we also face fundamental challenges, some countries in the Americas have threatened to withdraw from regional courts, others have withdrawn, still, others have refused to enforce judgments rendered against them and yet others have imperilled the existence of regional courts by not implementing financial commitments,” Anderson said.
He said the meeting will create a platform for discussing these issues and for the exchange of best practices in treaty interpretation and application.
Anderson also said the ongoing Russia/Ukraine conflict was an “unspeakable tragedy” and threatens to unravel the relative peace enjoyed internationally over the past 75 years.
“The declaration to be adopted at the end of this meeting will, we hope, be one step towards a stable system of regional courts that guarantee peace, security and prosperity in the Americas,” Anderson said.
CCJ president, Justice Adrian Saunders, said the meeting was of great significance for the CCJ, as it allows the organisation to discuss the interpretation of various treaties with international court judges.
“A second motivating factor that explains the CCJ’s readiness to host this conference is that of the courts represented here, ours is the youngest. We, therefore, have a considerable amount to learn from the experience of the other courts,” Saunders said.
He said it was in the CCJ’s interest to discover best practices that would assist in advancing its mandate. Saunders said the two days of discussions will include issues of mutual interest relating to the rule of law and international justice.
He said judges do not live in ivory towers and while they must be impartial, they cannot be detached or insensitive.
“Guided by the law, we are ever conscious and keen to afford just outcomes, not only in disputes between and among states but in particular for individuals who are made weak and powerless; those who have been forced to the margins of society; those who hunger for the truth to be unravelled by an objective arbiter; and those who see the courts as their last, if not only recourse,” Saunders said.
Attorney General Reginald Armour also delivered remarks during the opening ceremony.
Armour said he was continuing his advocacy for the CCJ to become T&T’s final appellate court. He said he has had numerous conversations with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on this issue.