To ensure that proper legal services are provided to the Government; to provide statutory services to the public relating to the public trust and bankruptcy matters; and to register titles, mortgages, companies, societies and other bodies as well as other documents, as required by the law.
Child protection convention great opportunity for Caribbean as it pushes integration – Sir Matthew Thorpe
Jul 15, 2016 Government, Ministry of Legal Affairs, News
Georgetown, GINA, July 15, 2016
The Hague Child Protection Convention can be a regional tool implemented by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to protect children and provide remedy and justice for families moving across borders as the region seeks to strengthen its free movement efforts.
Sir Matthew Thorpe, the former Lord Justice of Appeal and Head of International Family Justice was making a presentation at the regional conference of Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) being hosted in Guyana at the Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown.
Sir Matthew Thorpe former Lord Justice of Appeal, London and Wales and Head of International Family Justice
“Within a region an instrument which provides protection and justice to reflect the mobility of the people within the region is absolutely vital,” Thorpe told the gathering of Ministers of Legal Affairs, Attorney Generals, Judges and other legal practitioners.
Noting that CARICOM’s integration initiative is similar to that of the European Union when it had first started, Thorpe said the 1996 Child Protection Convention should be accelerated to be adopted by the Caribbean region.
The 1996 Child Protection Convention covers a wide range of civil measures of protection concerning children, from orders concerning parental responsibility and contact to public measures of protection or care, and from matters of representation to the protection of children’s property. The Convention has uniform rules determining which country’s authorities are competent to take the necessary measures of protection.
“It could be exceptionally useful, I suggest within the Caribbean region on a regional level. I simply can’t see any rational reason for rejecting the 1996 convention,” Thorpe pointed out.
Cross -border contact becomes a particular area of concern in the free movement of people. There has to be reciprocal recognition and enforcement especially when the child or children have parents in different states.
“I simply cannot see why any legislature should, as it were, (be) viewed with suspicion or viewed with disfavor,” Thorpe said. The general failure for a more global standard to protect children across borders arises from lack of understanding.
Thorpe opined that it is only specialist family lawyers who “really understand how crucial these instruments are and how badly they are needed.” He noted that it very often difficult to persuade the executive and legislative bodies of any country “that this business has high priority.”
Thorpe pointed out that criminal justice is of vital importance but expressed the belief that it is “high time” international family justice cease to be treated as a relatively low priority.
“I do think that the availability of the 1996 convention within your region is something that should be acclaimed as a wonderful opportunity,” Thorpe said as he closed his address.
Delegates at Hague conference seek clarification on Child Abduction Convention
Jul 15, 2016 Government, Ministry of Legal Affairs, News
Georgetown, GINA, July 15, 2016
During day one of the Hague Convention Conference on Thursday, delegates were eager to get clarification on the practical implementation of the Child Abduction Convention.
Guyana is hosting the third regional Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) at the Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown. The two-day inaugural conference was packed with presentations on conventions applicable to international family law, and legal cooperation and commerce. Presentations were made on the Child Abduction Convention.
Judge Cathy Hollenberg Serrette from the United States gave a detailed, yet concise explanation of the convention and how it can be utilised. Serrette is a judge on the seventh Judicial Circuit in Maryland, USA.
Delegates during the first day of the Hague Child Abduction Convention
The purpose of the Child Abduction Convention deals largely with the parental abduction of children across borders. The purpose of the convention is to protect children internationally from the harmful effects of wrongful removal or retention, to deter international abductions, and to provide a prompt remedy for the return of these children.
“The entire point of the convention is to get a child or children who have been wrongfully removed back to their habitual residence where a custody case may be held at that time.” Judge Serrette clarified that the convention is not a custody convention.
Judge Serrette’s presentation focused on how countries which are signatories to this particular convention can use it to expedite the return of abducted children to their residence. More importantly, her presentation pointed out how the convention gives more flexibility and tools to be used by the courts especially in addressing highly contested custody cases involving an international family member.
“I know I can craft an order in my custody case using the language of the Hague Convention that would pretty much assure that if the international parent does indeed remove the child, and not return the child contrary to the representations in the court room, then I have the mechanisms of getting this child back and protecting the child’s best interest, “Judge Serrette explained.
Judge Serrette, in encouraging delegates to use the resources available on the HCCH’s website, pointed out how the articles from the Convention can be used by Judges.
Representatives from within the Caribbean region were eager for explanation following her presentation. Justice Abdullahi Zuru of the Commonwealth Secretariat in Guyana queried how the criminality of abduction is addressed under the Convention.
Within the framework of the Convention, no one can be punished, explained Secretary General of the HCCH, Dr. Christophe Bernasconi. “We are not punishing anyone we are only seeking to protect the child,” he said.
Acknowledging that abduction is a criminal offence in many countries, Dr. Bernasconi noted that criminal cases can be developed independently of the civil case which would be governed by the convention.
Panel on the Hague’s Child Abduction Convention (from left to right) Presenter Richard Williams of the Grand Cayman, Chair of the session Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, Presenter Judge Cathy Hollenberg Serrette of the US, Secretary General of the HCCH, Christophe Bernasconi (answering question) and Latin American Representative of HCCH, Ignacio Goicoechea.
Pointing out that the convention provides six weeks for the return of the child, Dr. Bernasconi added that the jurisdiction will have to examine its legislation to determine if it can prosecute the matter criminally in that time if it overlaps the criminal matter.
Delegates were also inquisitive about returning the child as was posed by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Judges seeking advice on how to deal with the sensitive return of the child.
Latin American Representative of HCCH, Ignacio Goicoechea pointed out that time is critical in the return of the child. The convention makes provision for the processing of the child’s return within six weeks.
Meanwhile, Surinamese Minister of Justice and Police, Jennifer Van Dijk-Silos requested support for the establishment of a Central Authority in her country. There is a “blockade” the country is facing in signing on to the Convention, she explained.
Van Dijk-Silos was assured by the HCCH Secretary General that her matter will be addressed.
Also making presentation on the Convention was Grand Cayman Justice, Richard Williams who serves on the Family Law Division of the Grand Court of the Grand Cayman. Justice Williams provided two examples of how the Grand Cayman had successfully used the Convention to secure the return of children.
Justice Williams explained that the population of the small British territory is made up of various nationals. The state, he noted, has had to make representations in several cases to have the child returned to the island state following custodial battles.
Hague Convention Conference (HCCH) [Day 1]
“Regional HCCH Conference on International Family Law, Legal Cooperation and Commerce: Promoting Human Rights and Cross-border Trade in the Caribbean through the Hague Conference Conventions” held at Savannah Suite, Pegasus Hotel Kingston, Georgetown, Guyana [July 14, 2016]
Opening Ceremony of the Hague Convention Conference
“International Family Law, Legal Co-operation and Commerce: Promoting Human Rights and Cross-Border Trade in the Caribbean through the Hague Conference Conventions ” – July 13, 2016, held at Savannah Suite, Pegasus Hotel Kingston, Georgetown, Guyana
Opening Remarks by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs – Hague Convention Conference on Private International Law
July 13, 2016
International Family Law, Legal Cooperation and Commerce: Promoting Human Rights and Cross Border Trade in Guyana through the Hague Conventions
His Excellency Brigadier David Granger – President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Mrs Sandra Granger – First Lady of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Honourable Moses Nagamootoo – Prime Minister of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Honourable Justice Carl Singh – Chancellor of the Judiciary, Dr. Barton Scotland, CCH- Speaker of the National Assembly, Ministers of the Government, Leader of the Opposition and Former President Bharrat Jagdeo, Members of the Diplomatic Corp, The Right Honourable Sir Dennis Byron-President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Ministers of Legal Affairs and Attorney Generals from the region, Dr. Christophe Bernasconi- Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, Maria Cristina Perceval – UNICEF Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, Honourable Madam Justice Yonnette Cummings-Edwards – Chief Justice, Members of the Judiciary, Honourable Judges from the region, Sir Matthew Thorpe – Lord Justice of Appeal, Court of Appeal of England and Wales (Rtd), Members of Parliament, Mrs. Patricia Chase-Green-Her Worship the Mayor of Georgetown, colleagues at the bar, special invitees, participants, ladies and gentlemen.
Tonight it is my distinct honour and pleasure to welcome you firstly to Guyana and secondly to the Hague Convention Conference on “International Family Law, Legal Cooperation and Commerce: Promoting Human Rights and Cross Border Trade in Guyana through the Hague Conventions”. I am delighted that Guyana is the host for what is no doubt a prestigious gathering of legal minds coming together to have meaningful discourse on the challenges that confront our nations and how the Conventions birthed from the Hague Conference on Private International Law may offer a solution.
The first Conference I attended as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs was a Hague Conference on International Law (held in Trinidad and Tobago) in June 2015. The hosting of this Conference is in direct response to an appeal by Sir Matthew Thorpe at that Conference for Caribbean countries to embrace the ideals of the HCCH and sign on to its Conventions. Sir Thorpe emailed me on 23rd August, 2015 enquiring whether there was any hope of Guyana appointing a judge to the International Hague Network of Judges; pointing out that this may aid our country towards Convention accessions. I responded on the 7th September, 2015, indicating that I am interested in hosting a Hague Conference and would be grateful for his assistance.
He immediately responded and gave a thorough breakdown of what was needed to host a successful conference. He advised that I involve Mr. Ignacio Goicoechea-the Latin America Representative of the HCCH and I heeded his advice. Mr. Ignacio Goicoechea expressed the same enthusiasm as Sir Thorpe and immediately endorsed my proposal. After receiving their support I went to President Granger with the concept note and the President without hesitation embraced it. This paved the way for UNICEF to partner with us and graciously fund part of the Conference. The HCCH also provided support in the area of programming and coordinating the presenters for the various Conventions.
Benefits of Hague Conference on Private International Law for Guyana and the Region
The content and quality of the various HCCH Conventions are worthy of embracing. They primarily seek to improve the everyday lives of individuals, families and businesses by providing the legal framework that directly responds to challenges inherent in our interconnected world. It is therefore necessary to sensitise the legal community in Guyana and extend it towards the region so that we may all embrace the spirit of cooperation that underpins the HCCH Conventions. We must be cognizant that we are living in the age of globalisation where the solutions that confront us can only be solved when we work together to resolve them. The Conventions of the HCCH are useful to bridge the gaps created by our differences by encouraging judicial and administrative co-operation between States in an effort to effectively settle international disputes.
For those of us not a member of the HCCH or signatory to the Conventions, the time to do so is now. Partnering with the HCCH allows us to become proactively involved in the welfare of our citizens (especially those most vulnerable) as well as contribute to the development of our economy. Embracing and aligning ourselves with the mission of the HCCH by becoming a Contracting State will result in having a legislative framework reflective of international standards to resolve disputes. For example in the area of International Family Law where family disputes and dissolutions span continents the Conventions offer tremendous benefit to ensure the human rights of children are protected. The Abduction Convention, Adoption Convention, the Child Maintenance Convention and Child Protection Convention will pave the way to secure the best interest of children and preserving the most important institution in society, the family. They will provide a legal mechanism for us in the region to collectively ensure that the human rights of children are preserved.
Another example is in the area of Legal Co-operation and Commerce which is an important area for our region as we forge ahead in our mission to greater regional integration and cooperation. International trade disputes that confront us can be settled through the solutions offered by the HCCH Conventions which have as their underlying principle co-operation among states to resolve disputes. The Conventions contribute to the ease of doing international business by removing the legal obstacles that can hinder any thriving economy. For instance, they simplify and expedite judicial proceeding, ensure reciprocity as it relates to the enforcement of judgments in foreign jurisdictions. Additionally, they promote legal certainty by allowing contracting parties to choose both the choice of court to hear the dispute and the law which will govern the proceedings. This creates an atmosphere of cooperation and encourages investment and trade.
Some of these Conventions include – the Service Convention , the Evidence Convention, the Apostille Convention, the Choice of Courts Convention and the Hague Principles on Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts.
As Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs it is my hope that Guyana becomes a member of the HCCH and that we can continue the work already started through the hosting of this Conference.
As a testament to Guyana’s commitment to partnering with the HCCH it gives me great pleasure to nominate our Honourable Chief Justice- Madam Justice Yonnette Cummings-Edwards and Madam Justice Roxanne George to be Guyana’s representatives on the International Hague Network of Judges. I have no doubt that they will bring to this prestigious network a wealth of knowledge that will contribute positively to the operating and functioning of the Hague Conventions.
Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to all of you for supporting this Conference by your presence and I wish you a very productive and successful meeting.