Caribbean Court of Justice

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) settles disputes between Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States, and also serves as the highest court of appeals on civil and criminal matters for the national courts of Barbados, Belize and Guyana. The CCJ’s seat is in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The Caribbean Court of Justice does not have competence to hear individual complaints of alleged human rights violations, except in its capacity as a court of final appeal in civil and criminal matters, which often involve fundamental rights.

The CARICOM Member States are: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

In 2001 the establishing Agreement granted the CCJ original and exclusive jurisdiction to interpret and apply the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas Establishing the Caribbean Community. However a person or private company must have the CCJ’s permission to bring proceedings before it and moreover the CCJ’s original jurisdiction only extends to the application and interpretation of the Treaty, and not human rights generally. See Doreen Johnson v CARICAD, finding that the CCJ did not have jurisdiction to hear an employment discrimination claim (see, in particular, the Remarks by Chief Justice de la Bastide in Johnson v. CARICAD, AR2 of 2008, Judgment of December 7, 2008).

Jamaica first proposed that the CCJ also substitute for the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) of the United Kingdom and acquire appellate jurisdiction as the court of last resort in civil and criminal matters, and in cases involving fundamental rights (art. 25). To date, only three Caribbean states (Barbados, Belize and Guyana) have replaced the JCPC with the CCJ. In this narrow capacity as an appellate court the CCJ has addressed a number of human rights issues including the death penalty (Attorney General et al v Jeffrey & Lennox Ricardo Boyce [CCJ Appeal No. CV 2 of 2005]) and labor rights (King v. Reyes et el [CCJ Appeal No. CV 3 of 2011]).

The CCJ, in exercising its jurisdiction, may apply rules of international law (art. 17). The Court operates according to its (Original Jurisdiction) Rules, (Appellate Jurisdiction) Rules and Code of Judicial Conduct.

There is also a distinct tribunal in the Caribbean called the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, which is the superior court of record with unlimited jurisdiction to decide civil and criminal cases and hear appeals from parties to legal proceedings in proceedings of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States(OECS) nine members states: Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Christopher (St. Kitts) & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines.