CCJ reserves judgement in case of Grenadian prevented from entering T&T

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) yesterday reserved judgement in the case in which a Grenadian alleged that his rights to freedom of movement within the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom) region was infringed when he was refused entry into Trinidad and Tobago nearly two years ago.

“We will take time to consider and inform you when we are ready to give a decision in this matter,” CCJ President Justice Adrian Saunders said after hearing submissions from the attorneys representing, David Bain, the Trinidad and Tobago Government and the Guyana-based Caricom Secretariat.

Attorney Ruggles Ferguson had argued that his client, who is also a citizen of the United States, had presented his US passport on arrival from Grenada, on December 14, 2017.

He said Bain was denied entry to attend the wedding of a family member and to remain on the island for a few days.

The five-member panel CCJ judges heard that Bain was refused entry by immigration officials after he was questioned about past arrests for narcotics, which he strongly denied.

The court heard that during the incident Bain presented a Grenadian driver's licence and national identification card to establish his Grenadian citizenship for the purpose of invoking the right to freedom of movement as a Caricom national, he was nevertheless detained and sent back to Grenada.

Ferguson argued that while he agrees that freedom of movement within Caricom is not absolute, “we are not arguing that it is absolute.

“The only issue here is really verification that Mr Bain is also a Caricom national and the fact that his US passport is stamped does not take away that fact.

“So what it means is that he becomes entitled to the best of both worlds. That simply is what dual citizenship means. If I go to the United States, I am a US citizen I am entitled to the rights and privileges that exist in the United States.

“If I come to Grenada whether on a US passport or otherwise, I am still a Grenadian citizen and I am entitled also to those rights and privileges. One does not adversely affect the other,” Fergusson said, adding “that's the essence of our submission”.

Grenada is a signatory to the original jurisdiction of the CCJ, which was established in 2001 to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region's highest court. The CCJ also functions as an international tribunal, interpreting the treaty that governs the 15-member regional integration movement, Caricom.

Attorney Richie Dass, representing the Trinidad and Tobago Government, said that no one has suggested for a minute that Bain is not a Grenadian citizen.

“At the end of the day Mr Bain elected to maintain a US passport. He elected to fly upon it. He elected not to maintain a valid Grenadian passport and for that…he wants damages of US$25,000 as a result of that.

“We say there should be no entitlement and there's no breach. It is entirely consistent with the Revised Treaty (of Chaguaramas) for people to have a passport to invoke their rights...It is entirely consistent with the approach of the Heads of Governments in successive meetings as Caricom itself has pointed out and it is entirely consistent with the subsequent treaties that this is how it ought to be done”

Dass argued that there “could be no legitimate criticism of the Trinidad and Tobago Government or the receiving officers at immigration”.

He said that immigration officers were also interested in the matter since it would determine whether their actions are defensible or not.

“And so, we say they acted properly in all the circumstances,” Dass told the CCJ.

In its submission, the Caricom Secretariat said entry into a Caricom country is not “unbridled right”, adding “it is a right that must be balanced by security to protect”.

The secretariat argued that a driver's licence is not a readable document “and provides no information…and that right to an automatic stay of six months is something to the Caricom national not being an undesirable.

“One cannot determine if a person is an undesirable by the mere looking at a driver's licence,” the Caricom Secretariat said in its submission.

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