In July of this year the Court of Appeal issued a divided and hotly disputed decision in the counter appeals of the Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA) and Toledo Alcaldes Association (TAA) and the Government, affirming the Mayas’ rights to control of communal land in the 38 Maya villages of the Toledo District but removing the Government’s duty to offer key protections such as a system of title. Both sides were determined to take the case to the highest court in the land, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), and today after a brief hearing it was made official. After the ruling was handed down this morning, we spoke with Attoinette Moore, who was flanked by representatives of both Maya advocacy organizations, on the importance of a new forum in which to hear the case.
“Myself and my clients are very pleased that the Court of Appeals has granted leave for us to proceed to the Caribbean Court of Justice. We do have the right to appeal so it was little doubt that we will be granted leave to appeal because this is a matter of constitutional interpretation, and it also involves a dollar amount that exceeds a certain amount in the rules. It is extremely important that the highest court in the land, now the Caribbean Court of Justice will hear this matter and will make a final decision at least with respect to the law, what the rights in terms of land are for the Maya people and what the rights in terms of people protection, the law, and discrimination of the Mayan people.”
The Government is cross-appealing on the main facet of Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh’s 2010 ruling establishing the Mayas’ control of land in their villages. Antoinette Moore tells us what else should come up at trial.
Antoinette Moore: As you may recall on the Twenty-fifth of July when the court of appeal issued its judgment it basically gave a split decision, on one hand they affirm that the Maya people have the right of the land but on the other hand they rejected the relief that the former Chief Justice had granted. So there were no injuncted relief there was no other remedy that was granted or that is affirmed by the Court of Appeal. Now what is happening is that the government is appealing, is cross appealing that affirmation of customary rights but now the government is going to the higher courts just as they have to a trial court and the Courts of Appeals to say Maya have no rights to their land, no customary right to their land. That is what they are appealing that portion of the Court of Appeals judgment. We on the other hand are appealing the part of the Court of Appeal judgment that say there is no relief there is no protection of the rights.”
Both cases have become central to other important matters involving the Maya, such as the recently concluded request for injunction on U.S. Capital Energy and the Government by SATIIM, but Antoinette Moore says she does not believe a CCJ ruling will completely end debate.
The formal appeal must be filed within 21 days and thereafter the court will set a schedule leading up to full trial sometime next year.