Jamaican gay rights activist challenging Belize immigration law at the CCJ

Maurice Arnold Tomlinson, a Jamaican attorney and gay rights activist is challenging a section of Belize’s Immigration Law, and seeking leave for his claim to be heard at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).f1

On Wednesday, the CCJ convened a case management session via teleconferencing and has set November 12 as the date when the court will hear Tomlinson’s application to seek special leave.

Tomlinson has to seek special leave from the CCJ to invoke its original jurisdiction, as an individual, because original jurisdiction is something that is usually reserved for states.

The section of the Belize Immigration Act that Tomlinson is challenging and asking the court to declare as a restriction of his freedom of movement says: “any prostitute or homosexual or person who may be living  on or receiving or may have been living on or receiving proceeds of prostitution or homosexual behavior.”

The right that Tomlinson is claiming is covered under the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which was revised in 2001, establishing the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

His claim is that that particular section of Belize Immigration Law is restrictive of his movement in a CARICOM country.

So, in essence, if his special leave application is successful, he will be asking the CCJ to lend its interpretation to the Treaty of Chaguaramas, and to declare a local law inconsistent with the treaty.

But Belize is not the only target; Trinidad’s Immigration law also has a provision similar to Belize’s. So both countries’ immigration laws will be held up to the scrutiny of the CCJ, once it grants special leave to hear the claim.

According to Channel 7 News, Tomlinson, who is married to a Canadian man, had travelled to Belize twice, but authorities had not invoked the section of the Immigration Act that his claim is focusing on.

The Channel 7 report also stated that Tomlinson had turned down a request from the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) to conduct a workshop here in Belize because of that law.

In his own country Jamaica, Tomlinson had taken court action against the government-owned Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) and Television Jamaica (TVJ) and CVM TV for their refusal to air his advertisement promoting tolerance for homosexuals in Jamaica.

The Jamaican Constitutional Court has reserved its judgment on the case, the Jamaica Gleaner reported last May.

In the case, Tomlinson claims that his right to freedom of expression was breached and has asked the court to order the defendants to air the advertisement.

Attorneys representing the defendants argued in court that the advertisement would have been viewed as promoting homosexuality; that is illegal in Jamaica.

Due to threats against his life, Tomlinson has moved from Jamaica and relocated to Canada.

At Wednesday’s teleconferencing from the CCJ, the Belize Government was represented by Deputy Solicitor General Nigel Hawke and a team of Crown Counsels.

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