THE RULE OF LAW REQUIRES RESPECT FOR MINORITIES, SAYS JUSTICE ADRIAN SAUNDERS OF THE CCJ

Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 11, 2017 (SKNIS): In his address at the Good Governance Lecture Series hosted at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) by the Government of National Unity on March 09, The Honourable Mr. Justice Adrian Saunders, Judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), jumpstarted his treatise on the theme “Laws for Peace, Order and Good Governance: Promoting Democracy, Natural Justice and the Rule of Law” by quoting the Greek Philosopher Aristotle, who is credited to have said that “it is more proper that the law should govern than anyone of its citizens.”

“In other words, even the king, the ruler, the supreme ruler, should be under the law,” Justice Saunders said.

The esteemed judge said that the Rule of Law must not be so designed to favour majorities but it must bear in mind the protection of minorities.

“There must be fairness; the law must operate in a fair manner. There must be respect for minorities, which is critical because we operate in a system where the majority can vote a particular government into office or the majority can enjoy certain rights and privileges, but minorities, their position in society must also be respected, whether they be persons who are a source of disabilities, whether they be persons who have a different sexual orientation, whether they be persons who pray to a different god to the One that is prayed to by the majority of the people, whoever they are, the Rule of Law requires respect for minorities,” Justice Saunders said.

He said that everyone, irrespective of who he or she is, must have equal respect before the law.

The Rule of Law “requires the respect for human rights and for the separation of powers and for equality before the law,” he said. “You can’t have a situation where one person who is well off having law being applied to them differently from someone who is not so well off.”

The CCJ’s judge said that Caribbean Constitutions seek to protect people’s fundamental rights and freedoms.

“Our Constitutions seek to do these things. Our Constitutions are excellent guarantors of the Rule of Law because they serve as a fundamental break in tendencies to arbitrariness. They’re really designed to keep governments in check, to constrain the actions of all the organs of the State, whether Executive, Legislative or Judicial so that under the Constitution, if it is working properly, the Executive is not at liberty to take any decision that it pleases nor is Parliament entitled to pass any law that it wishes—and even judicial power must be exercised with care, yes, even the judiciary, which is entrusted with the noble task of interpreting and applying the Constitution,” Justice Saunders said.

Judges must ensure that they exercise judicial power within limits because if like the drunk Phillip they carry out their mandate in a capricious fashion, then public trust and confidence in the justice system would be eroded, constitutional values would be diminished and the very Rule of Law would be imperiled,” added the Honourable Justice Adrian Saunders.

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