CCJ Rules Against Gay Jamaican Activist on His Challenge of Belize’s Immigration Laws

For the past 14 months, Jamaican Gay Rights Activist Maurice Tomlinson has been waiting for a decision from the Caribbean Court of Justice for his lawsuit against the governments of both Belize and Trinidad and Tobago. He says that the immigration laws of both countries prohibits him as a gay man from entering these jurisdictions legally, which by extension restricts his right to free-movement as a citizen of CARICOM.

Today, the judges of the CCJ delivered their decision via teleconference.

With video provided by the CCJ, here's Justice Rolston Nelson delivering key excerpts from the written decision:

Hon. Justice Rolston Nelson - Judge. Caribbean Court of Justice
"Mr. Morris Tomlinson an attorney at law who is a homosexual approach caught with an application for special leave to bring a case against these states of Belize, Trinidad and Tobago. He claimed that these states had prejudiced him in the enjoyment of his community right to enter these countries without hassle or harassment. Tomlinson's complaint was not based on any factual refusal of entry or otherwise wrongful treatment by Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, rather, it centers on the allegation that the immigration acts of these states prohibit the entry of homosexuals. Tomlinson argues that the mere existence of these laws is sufficient to prejudice the enjoyment of his community rights. The courts pose that Tomlinson has no valid reason to assume that his rights will not be respected by these states. The reasons for this conclusion are twofold; first, state practice in relation to Section 5.1 E of the Belize Immigration Act and the Section 8.1 E of the Trinidad and Tobago Immigration Act does not suggest any incompatibility with the RTC or the 2007 conference decision. Second, the practice or policy of admitting homosexual nationals from other CARICOM states not fully under the two exceptions mentioned in the 2007 conference decision is not a matter of discretion but is legally required. The Order of the court is that court dismisses amended originated application file hearing and orders each part to bear its own cost"

So, as you heard, Tomlinson's case has been dismissed, which vindicates both Belize and Trinidad & Tobago. Right after the hearing was over, we got a few rare comments from Deputy Solicitor General Nigel Hawke, who represented the Government of Belize. Here's what he told us outside of court:

Nigel Hawke - Dep. Solicitor Gen. of Belize
"Mr. Tomlinson application has been dismissed based on what the court said. We have to read the judgement fully in order to give you a proper understanding but based on what the court said we know the application is dismissed based on state practice and the fact that Mr. Tomlinson did not ever come to Belize. in fact what the court was saying he basically was trying to preempt the states of Trinidad and Tobago and Belize. So on that bases the court dismiss the application. So, we vindicated that all position all along was that our state practice was fundamentally different."

Daniel Ortiz
"Is the state of Belize served by this particular judgement sir is it?"

Nigel Hawke - Dep. Solicitor Gen. of Belize
"Well, I don't really say we was served. When we read the judgement the reality is we are part of CARICOM and I guess we have to look at the judgment know and take steps to see what we need to do in relation to our laws, but clearly the court mentioned article 9 which they in any event supersedes the domestic provisions in our laws."

Lisa Shoman - Attorney
"My sense however is that had Maurice Tomlinson come to Belize and had he actually been denied entry on the bases of being a homosexual then they would have been a live issue in terms of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. My belief is that the decision in miry would actually dictate that Belize's domestic law cannot stand up in terms of CARICOM Nationals. If it is refusing in CARICOM Nationals entry on the bases of being a homosexual. So, that will remain to be seen. Knowing Mr. Tomlinson I am sure he's not going to be content to simply leave this as is."

Daniel Ortiz
"Is there any discussion on whether or not this issue can become live as is alleged by Ms. Maurice Tomlinson?"

Nigel Hawke - Dep. Solicitor Gen. of Belize
"I have to read the judgement. We have to wait and see but from where I stand all I can say is this. The issue in relation to community law is evolving, so every now and then you might have cases coming up but based on this one, what the CCJ has clearly said in this original jurisdiction is that based on our state practice Mr. Tomlinson could not succeed."

Despite numerous attempts, Tomlinson could not be reached for comment. Shortly after CCJ delivered the judgment, he did post this comment on his Facebook page.

It says, quote, "The Caribbean Court of Justice denied my application for a declaration that the laws of Belize and Trinidad & Tobago, which ban the entry of homosexuals, violate my right to free movement in CARICOM. HOWEVER, the court made it clear that as a homosexual I must be allowed the right of entry into both countries AND that the states should act to repeal the laws …This provides some clarity for Caribbean LGBTI people….the court denied Belize's application for me to pay their legal costs…There is no possibility of appealing the judgment so it is now time for the states to act."

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