This past Tuesday, a five-member panel of the Caribbean Court of Justice met to consider the application of Jamaican gay rights activist and attorney Mr. Maurice Tomlinson for special leave to file under the Court’s original jurisdiction against Belize and Trinidad and Tobago. Both countries, Mr. Tomlinson contends, are violating his right to free movement by maintaining laws that explicitly ban homosexuals from landing in either territory. The only problem is that Mr. Maurice Tomlinson has twice been to Belize and visited Trinidad and Tobago four times with no one aware of his homosexuality, however he has recently refused invitations by organizations in both countries to speak at their conferences and events because he has just discovered that the laws in both states appear to directly prohibit homosexuals from landing in each country. Mr. Tomlinson alleges that this directly prejudices his right to free movement, dignity and equality under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which establishes the Caribbean Community and CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
In Belize’s case he was to visit at the request of the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) last January for a training session. Lord Anthony Gifford, QC, of the Jamaican firm Gifford, Thompson and Wright, said in court that the law is clear on banning homosexuals and not, as contended by Belize, attacking those who live off the proceeds of either prostitution or homosexuality. The only remedy, Lord Gifford argued, is to have the law amended, as neither the Minister’s power to exempt or any common practice in interpretation of the law avails Mr. Tomlinson of a challenge by a private citizen in our courts as to his standing if he were to come here and if he were to come and then be thrown out it would injure his dignity. It is the Court’s prerogative, he challenged, citing the recently decided Shanique Myrie case in which a Jamaican woman was unlawfully detained and expelled from Barbados and was awarded damages, to interpret and if necessary amend the law so that it conforms to the intentions of the Caribbean Community Treaty and international law convention. In the afternoon, the states replied, with Mr. Nigel Hawke.