Choice of Court Convention could lead to reduction in civil cases locally – Commonwealth Secretariat Rep at Hague Conference

Georgetown, GINA, July 17, 2016

Guyana could see a reduction in the volume of civil cases before the local courts if it becomes a signatory to the Hague’s Choice of Court Convention.

Justice Abdullahi Zuru of the Commonwealth Secretariat on the last day of the regional Hague Conference hosted by Guyana, stated that by signing onto the convention, “local firms in Guyana can engage in business arrangements with international firms.”

The Choice of Court Convention basically seeks to promote international commercial transactions by encouraging judicial cooperation and the recognition and enforcement of judgement.

“In the event of any dispute arising in an area not listed under Article 2 (of the convention), the matter will be settled by the choice of Court Agreement which is in place between the parties. To a considerable extent, this has the potential to reduce the volume of cases before the civil division of our local courts,” Zuru explained.

However, Zuru cautioned that singing onto any international convention, treatment of agreement has no force unless it goes through the process of legislative drafting, law revision and reform.

Acknowledging the work of the Attorney General Chambers, Justice Zuru praised Guyana’s Attorney General, Basil Williams for his efforts to revise the laws through the establishment of the law reform commission.

“So we hope that when the law reform commission takes off and the Guyana government takes off, their singular responsibility of the law reform commission (would be) to fully get yourself involved in having to commence the process of getting these treaties on board,” Justice Zuru said.

Meanwhile, the other presenter on the Choice of Court Convention, Professor at the University of the West Indies Calvin Hamilton asked the delegates to consider signing onto the convention as a regional block.

“With respect to what this means for the Caribbean, we’ve got the possibility of either acceding to the convention individually as states or we can do as the European Union did, as a regional economic integrated organisation,” Professor Hamilton explained.

The Professor further challenged the Caribbean delegates to contemplate “our appellate jurisdiction versus original jurisdiction and complexities that are present.”

The Professor said, “Will it behove us, will it make sense to consider that matters dealing with litigation arising from the validity of the choice of agreement clause…should be managed by one court and which court will that be? I would pause at the CCJ (Caribbean Court of Justice).”

Professor Hamilton recognised however, that this may entail internal adjustments and treaty adjustments. “One of the things that it will do is it harmonises jurisprudence particularly at a time where we need to harmonise jurisprudence,” opined Hamilton.

This sentiment of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) signing onto the convention as a regional body was echoed by Justice Zuru.

However, CARICOM representative Sandra Bart noted, “Our system is not like the EU so even though the heads of governments would have endorsed a particular treaty, each member state individually does the accession, ratification and so on.”

Professor Hamilton pointed out that the EU has the mandate to negotiate on behalf of its members. Similarly, CARICOM would need such a mandate which would be advantageous in coordinating a regional response to the Hague Conventions.