Filed under: August Volume 1 - 2008, Latino/Caribe | Tags: Barbados, Caricom, CWC, IMPACS, JRCC, RIFC, Trinidad, USAID
By Farhana Jamal, Islamic Post Staff Writer
A regional judicial system which uses its own code of laws and methods of enforcement has been initiated in the Caribbean with the implementation of the Caricom’s Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) and its communication arm, the Joint Regional Communication Centre (JRCC), which is prided for its access to Interpol databases.
According to a Caribbean Community (Caricom) website, “The multi layered security platform that was implemented by the Caribbean to host [2007 Cricket World Cup] CWC, saw the establishment of the JRCC. This centre utilised a number of watch lists, including Interpol’s ( …) database to check every passenger arriving in the Region or traveling throughout the region by air and sea. Caricom Heads of Government have already agreed that the JRCC, which is headquartered in Barbados, will remain as a permanent structure. The other agency to remain is the Regional Intelligence Fusion Centre (RIFC).”
However, the “security platform” had its roots in a data sheet from the year 2000 which was issued by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), called “Rule of Law.” The project was funded in that year at approximately a half million in aid to improve “the efficiency and fairness of the legal systems throughout the Caribbean.”
The USAID data sheet lists the program to have met its aims, part of which appears to be a decrease in national sovereignty. “Cases that formerly had to be decided in the formal court system are now being referred by judges for mediation,” the sheet says.
For the future, “Laws will be developed to support free trade and competition, curb international crime, and protect human rights,” claimed USAID. Since 2000, when the report was written, the region has seen a dramatic increase in crime; a crippling increase in free trade, which has translated into food importation and a subsequent loss of food sovereignty; and increasing human rights issues stemming directly from the new security measures.
Ultimately, and perhaps underhandedly, the Caricom-hosted Cricket World Cup was the vehicle used to push through more stringent customs and immigrations policies in the region. Caricom was subsequently able to boast “the first region in the world to integrate a national and regional border control structure with Interpol’s global database.”
After May 2007, when the temporary Caricom special visa requirements ended, travelers were told that procedures had gone back to normal. But very little has gone back to normal; security measures have become yet more stringent, and any guidelines to help travelers comply have gone underground.
As part of heightened security in the area, the JRCC uses not only the Interpol database of terrorists to screen travelers, but also Caricom nations’ lists of “individuals of concern” for a more involved screening process.
Why all this is necessary seems to be a mystery, but the results are clear. People are being denied entry into Caricom nations without any delivery of explanation of suspicion, or offered proof. Others have been detained, then repatriated “without the cumbersome process of extradition” to their countries of origin under the Caricom Arrest Warrant Treaty, which predictably denies the detainee access to the “formal court system” mentioned above.
Free Movement of People.
According to Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo, these regulations have not assisted the “free movement of people,” which is one of Caricom’s goals and the stated reason for so many alien procedures. In practice, however, it has become increasingly burdensome to travel inside and into the region.
Guyana’s Government Information Agency reported the stance of President Jagdeo that although “it was in recognition of this [free movement of people] that we decided to fast track arrangements for the unrestricted movements of our people throughout the region,” President Jagdeo noted that the very opposite is happening and people have not been able to enjoy “one of the basic rights of hassle free travel.”
Guyana’s head of state also stated, “What I find most disturbing is not the issue of the denial of entry of CARICOM citizens at the various ports of entry in the community but, the humiliation suffered at the hands of some of the immigration officers at these ports.”
GINA continued by saying, “A number of Guyanese have complained about the treatment they received at the hands of immigration authorities in Barbados. Though these complaints have declined, they have begun to emerge from Guyanese attempting to enter Trinidad and Tobago [TT] with a group of Guyanese recently complaining about the treatment they received when they attempted to enter TT for employment purposes.”
Local authorities have also been publicly humiliated by the policing body in place for the CWC which consisted of international and regional officers. Deputy Prime Minister of Barbados and Head of the Caricom Ad Hoc Committee on Security and Other Related Matters for Cricket World Cup 2007, Mia Mottley, complained about the open frisking of Barbados Police officers by CWC officers during the games. She stated in a Caricom press release that “there had been prolonged discussions between CARICOM member states and CWC officials long before the commencement of the tournament in respect to this issue. These discussions had clarified the role and responsibility of the national police forces in relation to enforcement of law and order and the primacy of the police in respect to national security within any host country, over and above the role of CWC officials or private security. The Deputy Prime Minister stated that the authority of the police was a fundamental element of national law that could not be ignored. She added that there will be dialogue with CWC officials to ensure that such action will not be repeated.”
It is not clear why CWC officials had the authority to ignore Deputy PM Mottley’s initial requests.
The Associated Press reported on the new “Rule of Law Index,” which came out on July 3 at the World Justice Forum in Vienna. The Index is “aimed at helping the United States and others countries pursue more fair policies in the pursuit of terrorists.”
Jurist, reporting on the same Forum, stated, “Developing a more quantitatively-oriented assessment tool was deemed important because dictators often use the language of democracy to legitimize their actions. In its World Report 2008, Human Rights Watch criticized established democracies for not doing enough to expose dubious democratic claims by authoritarian regimes.”
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