The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has reserved its decision on whether or not to grant leave to a Grenadian family to bring proceedings against Barbados for alleged breach of their freedom of movement rights under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
The four member Gilbert family – comprising husband Pastor Royston Gilbert, wife Glennor Gilbert, and two daughters Tamika &Lynnel Gilbert – shot into prominence in October 2016 following a harrowing experience in Barbados, including the strip naked search of the two daughters – an incident which sparked outrage both in Grenada and the wider region.
The Gilberts had gone to Barbados to have their US visas renewed and to spend a few days there to relax as a family.
After securing the renewed visas on October 11, 2016, they were due to return to Grenada the same evening on board a LIAT flight.
However, it was while shopping around in Bridgetown that a store owner falsely accused the two daughters of stealing her cell phone, leading to the traumatic events which followed for the family.
Apart from the humiliating body search of the daughters, the Gilberts contend that they were prevented from leaving the police station until one of the daughters (Tamika) acceded to the demands of the police to change a portion of her statement which she refused to do.
Under protest, and in order to allow the family to catch the evening flight back to Grenada, Tamika deposed in an affidavit before the court that she eventually changed her statement under “duress”.
Attorneys for the Gilbert family argue that the actions of the police officers, as agents of the State, interfered with their clients’ rights to move freely within and to depart Barbados, hassle free and without undue interference as provided under the Revised Treaty (Articles 45 & 46).
In a two-step process, an individual alleging breach of Treaty rights must first obtain the leave (permission) of the CCJ in its Original Jurisdiction in order to bring proceedings against a State.
If leave is granted, the Applicant, as a second step, must then file a substantive claim to be ultimately heard and determined by the court.
If no leave is granted, the matter ends there as there is no right of appeal from a decision of the court in its Original Jurisdiction.
The Gilbert family became the first Grenadians to file a matter in the CCJ when they instituted this action in September 2018.
A five member CCJ panel presided over by President of the Court, Justice Adrian Saunders – and including Justices Jacob Wit, David Hayton, Winston Anderson and Maureen Rajnauth-Lee – heard the arguments which lasted just over two hours.
Attorney-at-Law Ruggles Ferguson presented the arguments for the Gilberts who are represented by a Ciboney Chambers team which includes Ferron Lowe, Anyika Johnson-Cassone and Sabina Gibbs.
The Barbados case was presented by attorney-at-law, Deidre Gay-McKenna who is attached to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.