By Benjamin Flowers
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled this week, that the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of Belize, which set one-year appointments for Court of Appeal judges, did not violate the independence of the Judiciary.
On Wednesday, a five-judge panel dismissed the Bar Association of Belize’s appeal in the constitutional challenge, but made recommendations on how the Government of Belize should proceed to avoid threatening the separation of powers in the state.
“One-year appointments under the Constitution, thus amended, could be in breach of the Constitution, in particular section 6(7). We recommend a further evolution of the concept of judicial independence so that Justices of Appeal have the same security of tenure as Supreme Court judges,” the CCJ said.
The court did not specifically order GOB to implement the recommendations, but went on to recommend their immediate adoption.
The Bar Association of Belize had challenged the amendment in 2010 arguing that it would undermine the security of tenure of such judges, politicize appointments and re-appointments, and erode public confidence in the Court of Appeal as “independent and impartial.”
The Attorney-General countered that the purpose of the Sixth Amendment is to correct the alleged invalidity of the appointments of two distinguished sitting judges, and to prevent the recurrence of appointments with no specified period of tenure.
Attorney for the Bar Association, Andrew Marshalleck, told the media that the court’s recommendation sends a sign to both the incumbent and the opposition that the independence and impartiality of the court are in danger of being violated if the recommendations are not implemented.