UNDP has conducted an extensive assessment of the administration of justice in nine countries in the Caribbean (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago). The assessment includes an initial desk review, followed by the development and application of an online needs assessment tool, and then broad consultations with judicial stakeholders in each jurisdiction, with a subsequent consultation with regional judges from all participating countries.
This report highlights trends across the region and identifies potential opportunities for the international community on how to add value to current efforts and initiatives on improving the justice system. One of the most challenging issues in all regional jurisdictions is the backlog of cases, particularly with respect to criminal cases. The cause of these backlogs are multifaceted and can be attributed to a number of factors, including slow investigations carried out by the police, delays in the deposition process, and a lack of human and technological resources. The over-reliance on pre-trial detention due to a lack of pre-trial alternatives was a cause for concern as, within the context of a slow judicial process, it raises infringements on due process and habeas corpus issues that need addressing.
Governments` efforts to improve the administration of justice were recognized in the assessment, particularly efforts on legislative reform, strengthening of institutional capacities across all justice institutions, and on professional development. The introduction of specialised courts was also noted, such as drug, family, juvenile, and sexual offence courts, as well as the introduction by other courts of improved structure and discipline in case management processes, and the increased use of technology for efficiency purposes.
The Assessment Report makes detailed recommendations divided at the regional and national levels, allowing for a more targeted approach to future support from the UN System and other international donors. COVID-19 related recommendations are also included geared to ensure justice is not suspended during the recovery process.
Inequality, discrimination, and exclusion remain severe obstacles to universal sustainable development. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has exacerbated this development deficit and challenged the aspiration of access to justice for all. People living in poverty and marginalized groups may not be aware of their legal rights and often lack legal protection and access to mechanisms to remedy their grievances, resulting in increased vulnerability. Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) has a devastating, long-term effect on the lives of victims, their families, and communities, and impedes development progress. How can the Caribbean region move from a less punitive to a more rehabilitative system? These are some of the questions and issues that will be addressed tomorrow by our panelists:
· Luis Felipe Lopez-Calva, Regional Director for UNDP in Latin America and the Caribbean.
· Honorable Adrian Saunders, President of the Caribbean Court of Justice
· Dame Janice M. Pereira, Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court
· Ambassador Marie Legault, High Commissioner of Canada to Barbados and the OECS
· Ambassador Walter Webson, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations and Chairperson of UNDP’s Executive Board.
Follow this event live on Friday, July 17, 2020 at 9:00 am (New York) via uwitv.org. The needs assessment report will be shared following the formal launch.