BASSETERRE St. Kitts, March 21st 2011 (CUOPM) – President Designate of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Kittitian Sir Charles Michael Dennis Byron says he is hoping more Caricom states would come on board when he assumes office on August 17.
The international jurist made the comment during a press conference at the CCJ Headquarters in Trinidad. Among those present were CCJ President Michael De La Bastide and moderator/journalist Tony Fraser. It was conducted via video conference in Guyana, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. To date, Barbados, Guyana and Belize are fully signed on to the Court.
Quizzed on whether he had any concerns about the CCJ when he assumes office, Sir Dennis said: “I must be concerned that only three of the member states have acceded but as I have been observing the developments in the region, I echo the remarks made by President De La Bastide, that, it seems to be that as time goes on, the member states are getting closer to doing what is necessary to accede to the Court.
“So I would only hope that as I take office I would witness this development which would allow the Court to discharge its functions to benefit as wide a segment of our community as possible,” Byron is quoted in the Trinidad media as saying.
But he admitted there was “more fact finding and discussion.” “I hope my information base would be much broader and I look forward to discussing much more concrete plans as they emerge,” said Byron.
Byron reiterated his firm belief in the potential of the CCJ and its promise for the development and advancement of the Caribbean. Byron also said he was grateful for the opportunity to serve in this capacity (President Designate).
Rwanda experience: ‘Deeper perspective of human rights globally’ Byron’s present assignment is as President of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Africa.
Quizzed on his greatest achievement as President of ICTR, Byron said he had gained “a deeper perspective of the basic human rights of people globally.” He said: “I benefited enormously from both the jurisdiction of our Court which has had to apply rules of international and criminal and humanitarian grounds.”
Byron said he had gained substantively from the collegial interaction with judges from around the world. He added: “We have sat with and worked with judges from a wide variety of judicial traditions and backgrounds and experience. I think it has been a very rewarding experience.”
Byron also expressed his confidence in the quality of Caribbean jurists. “One of the inevitable consequences of that interaction has been a revival in my confidence in the quality of Caribbean jurists. I have had the opportunity to reflect on my association and knowledge of colleagues throughout the region.
“I have also had the responsibility to administrate a large judicial institution and although the number of judges is more than 23, not much more than that of the CCJ. Yet, I have had a large support staff of more than 1,200 people adequately funded by the United Nations (UN).”
During his tenure, Byron said there was the need for accounting and dealing with the General Assembly and the Security Council. He also said there were challenges including organisation and administration.
“I think the lessons learnt from the experiences have been very important. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, like the CCJ, was something very new. It started operating only in 1994 and it has had a limited time span because we have had to learn the process of international justice at the time that it started and now we are having to engage in the unusual activity of closing the Court as well,” added Byron.
When he assumes his regional appointment, Byron will be bringing the skills he honed from his international experience to the table. Byron said: “I think the lessons learned are of great value as I return to my home base in the Caribbean. I am trying to ensure I do my part to give my colleagues a well functioning court.
An eminently qualified Byron won the Leewards Islands Scholarship in 1960 and went on to read law at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. He graduated with an MA and LLB.
After 16 years of private practice, he went on to serve as High Court judge, Justice of Appeal and then Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.
While there, Sir Dennis led the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Judicial Reform Programme which included a Code of Ethics for judges.
His special interest in judicial education activities has led to the appointment of the Commonwealth Judicial Institute.
In 2000, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and was appointed a member of Her Majesty’s Privy Council in 2004.