Summary: Caribbean’s highest court agrees to hear challenge to discriminatory immigration laws

9th May 2014: The Caribbean Court of Justice has allowed the case of Maurice Tomlinson v. The State of Belize and Trinidad and Tobago to proceed to trial. The case challenges the immigration laws of Belize and Trinidad, which are the only two countries in the Western Hemisphere to prohibit the entry of LGBT people and other ‘prohibited classes’, including people with disabilities.

The claimant, Mr Tomlinson, is an openly gay Jamaican attorney who regularly works with marginalised groups across the Caribbean in his capacity as SRT grantee AIDS-Free World’s Legal Advisor. AIDS-Free World initiated the case against Belize and Trinidad because the laws of both countries make it impossible for Mr Tomlinson to work with vulnerable groups or attend regional meetings without knowingly breaking the law. The claim was first initiated with the Jamaican government, which refused to act on its own citizen’s behalf. It was next taken to the Caribbean Court of Justice, which has jurisdiction over all the members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

In its judgment, the Court acknowledged that there was a strong case to be made that the mere existence of these laws are evidence of prejudice. They also argued that the case raises important questions around the relationship between the domestic laws of individual countries and the treaty obligations they hold as members of the Caribbean Community. Decisions of Caribbean Court of Justice are binding across CARICOM countries.

UNAIDS has its regional headquarters in Trinidad. This case originally came to light because AIDS-Free World and other HIV and LGBTI activists would be unable to attend UNAIDS meetings without breaking the law. AIDS-Free World are therefore calling for UNAIDS to relocate until the country’s discriminatory immigration law is changed.

Full statement from AIDS-Free World:

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