The Gilbert family and their attorneys are considering the next course of action following a ruling Monday from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that dismissed their application seeking permission to sue Barbados for what they said was restricting their freedom of movement when they were on the island almost three years ago.
This was disclosed by lead attorney of the team, Ruggles Ferguson who along with one of the daughters Tamika Gilbert met with reporters on Tuesday to brief them on the results of the case.
The Trinidad-based court dismissed the application for special leave that had been filed by Tamika along with Lynnel Gilbert, Royston Gilbert, and Glennor Gilbert, who had accused Barbados of violating their right to freedom of movement under Article 45 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
The mother, father and their two adult daughters visited Barbados for a day in October 2016 when they were arrested and detained for six and a half hours.
While no charges were laid against them, Tamika and Lynnel claimed that they were subjected to degrading treatment by the police, and Tamika alleged that she was striped searched and made to remove a portion of her written statement recounting the degrading treatment before the police would allow the family to leave.
The Gilberts’ claimed that Barbados had violated their right to move freely within Barbados and to depart Barbados without unnecessary harassment or impediment.
Barbados denied their claim and opposed the grant of leave, arguing that the applicants had not fulfilled the requirements of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas needed to commence legal action.
In handing down its decision, the CCJ noted that the family was taken into police custody for the purpose of police investigations and that freedom of movement did not immunise CARICOM nationals from the operation of law enforcement agencies.
In addition, it said that the family would have had to set up an arguable case of discrimination based on nationality only, prohibited by Article 7 of the Revised Treaty, in order to be granted special leave to bring their claim against Barbados.
“They have failed to make out an arguable case that they were prejudiced in respect of the enjoyment of their right to free movement within the State of Barbados, and to depart Barbados without impediment. They have therefore not satisfied Article 222 (b) and so special leave cannot be granted,” the CCJ ruled.
After dismissing the application, the court said each party would bear its own costs.
According to Attorney Ferguson, although the CCJ’s ruling is final there are other aspects of the case such as the humiliating treatment meted out to the family, among other points that can be taken up in the local Barbados courts and options are being considered.
The longstanding attorney, who is a Managing Partner of Ciboney Chambers Law Firm on H.A. Blaize Street, hinted that the matter is not totally finished as discussions are taking place on the next course of action to be taken on the matter.
He said: “The judgment of the court did not say (that) they (the Gilbert family) were not unlawfully detained or it was not an outrage for them to be striped searched. What the court was dealing with in its Original Jurisdiction is the narrow freedom of movement problem.
“In fact, there was much debate about where the case should be brought because we recognised that going to the CCJ would narrow the issue to just the freedom of movement point, but the Gilberts’ were not interested in money for damages, it’s the principle regarding this matter.
“In fact, had the State of Barbados apologised for the treatment, this matter would have never prolonged and “that would have been the end of the matter.
“Interestingly … after some back and forth the Barbados authorities wrote to say that the matter is under investigation and they would get back to us on it and to date they have not gotten back to say anything in relation to the investigations.”
According to Ferguson the actions of the authorities in Barbados especially the local police and immigration officials does not augur well for Caribbean integration.
However, he said that this should not be seen as an “indictment of the people of Barbados” as there are certain agents of the state who through their actions will give a “country a bad name by those very actions”.
“…This can happen to anybody and since the Gilberts’ exposed the treatment, we have had many persons coming forward not just from Grenada but other parts of the region confessing that they have had similar experiences in Barbados involving both the police and immigration officials but they were too embarrassed to come forward to say what happened to them.
“…I think the Gilberts’ have to be commended for speaking out notwithstanding the very humiliating nature of the experience, not just for themselves but to ensure that it does not happen again.
In a one-on-one conversation with THE NEW TODAY, Tamika said, “it would be disappointing for something like this to get swept under the rug.
“It needs way more attention than it’s getting now, because we are not the only ones – we have had countless persons messaging…not just Grenadians…so many persons have come forth saying that they have been treated horribly in Barbados”, she remarked.
“Barbados is a beautiful place, by way of tourism product they are offering something pretty good but it’s this one factor (with the) immigration and the police – the stories that you hear about these two agents of the state, that’s where I think the problem lies and I think there is room for a lot of change,” she said.