Nation e-Edition

Judge rules in Garcia’s favour

Judge rules in Garcia’s favour Raul Garcia as he left his detention facility at The Garrison yesterday. (Picture by Nigel Browne.)

By Barry Alleyne | Thu, February 21, 2013 - 12:07 AM

Raul Garcia is a winner.

The Cuban yesterday won his case against the Government of Barbados and the Chief Immigration Officer, when a High Court judge ruled that his continued detention was unlawful. But Garcia isn’t free to walk the streets of Barbados just yet.

Justice Margaret Reifer, after providing a 110-paragraph decision in the No 6 Supreme Court, informed Garcia’s legal team he would only be released from custody when lawyers and Immigration Department officials came up with a joint plan for the former drug dealer’s conditions of staying in the country, and who he would live with.

The judge noted she would then have to consider the plan before endorsing it, and only then could he be released.

“It’s a victory, but there is more work to be done,” Garcia’s lead attorney David Comissiong told the DAILY NATION after the judge’s decision. “I will be working on this immediately. I don’t want the other side to be dragging their feet on this.”

Garcia, dressed in a rust-coloured polo shirt, beige pants, and brown shoes, was in a confident mood even before Justice Reifer’s decision, giving his legal team a salute after entering the courtroom. “Thank you,” he said softly to Comissiong after the 35-minute decision was read to the court.s

After the case was adjourned, Garcia finally unclenched his hands from his knees, and hugs and kisses were in abundance, before he was escorted back to his detention house in Dalkieth, St Michael, by Immigration officials.

The judge’s decision yesterday came exactly one year after Comissiong chose to represent Garcia in trying to prove the Immigration Department had no right to continue keeping him in custody if they could not effect his deportation to Cuba, or any other country willing to take him in.

Justice Reifer agreed with the claimants, who had brought a case of habeas corpus in an attempt to earn Garcia his freedom after completing a 20-year sentence for drug trafficking, but not being allowed back to his native land of Cuba, or the United States, where he lived from ten years old.

In making her decision, Justice Reifer said she had “rejected” the defendants’ submission that Garcia represented a threat to national security, society, or was a threat to abscond if freed. “It does not constitute a stand-alone reason for the continued detention of the claimant. It would be unduly diminished, and ultra vires in law,” Reifer said.

The judge noted that based on evidence presented regarding Garcia’s exemplary behaviour as an inmate during his two decades of incarceration, the court was of the view that he would not present a threat to Barbadians on the outside.

She also noted that under the Constitution of Barbados, personal freedom is safeguarded not only for Barbadian citizens, but aliens as well.

“Detention, in these circumstances, is not without limitations.

It is within the jurisdiction of this court, that deportation is pending, and that all steps have been taken to effect removal in a reasonable time. This court is now called upon to provide a very delicate balance.”

The judge added that though the initial detention of Garcia was lawful in light of a deportation, a recent diplomatic note from the Cuban Government made it clear deportation back to his homeland was not close to occurring.

She therefore ruled that the deportation order issued March 24, 2010, in Garcia’s name had been exhausted.

“The court finds that a deportation to Cuba cannot be done in a reasonable time,” Justice Reifer said, also noting the Government had in fact tried everything it could to have Garcia removed from Barbados.

The judge added that the court had to take into consideration, and weigh the possibility of Garcia returning to crime if not returned to a proper environment.

“This court has the responsibility to ensure there is no risk to the public or to the claimant.

“It is possible for the claimant to be released into the care of such individual or individuals as this court considers appropriate. In the determination of that fact, the Chief Immigration Officer shall first be heard by the court on the proposed arrangements and on the stability of the proposed caretaker, at a future hearing.”

The judge also reserved a decision on a request by Comissiong to award costs to Garcia. She said she would be willing to rule on that after further submissions were made by the claimant and the Solicitor General’s Chambers.

Comissiong revealed that an elderly couple in rural Barbados remained on standby to accept Garcia into their home when he was released.

He reiterated that Garcia remained willing to report to the country’s Immigration Department, or police under any conditions agreed to by the Supreme Court, until he was eventually deported.

The judge noted that Garcia, as an illegal immigrant, would not be able to seek employment, or access public funds.

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Posted by Pan Wallie 1 year, 8 months ago
His continued detention is unlawful, but he is still not free to go! Come up with a plan for his accomodation and condtions of existence on this island. So then, he really is still being detained.... legally, by order of the Court. Therefore, if this plan takes another year to be completed, then he is detained compliments of the Government for that time. PHEW!!

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Posted by Mary Yearwood 1 year, 8 months ago
Well, congratulations to Mr. Garcia! It's about time. Judge Reifer made the right decision. It wouldn't have served anyone any good purpose to have kept him in an imprisoned state.
Now he should fulfill his promise and make good of the most valuable lesson he has learned from this entire ordear...hopefully that having anything to do with illegal drugs doesn't pay off in the long run. He must take this message to all school children as his mission, and since it will fill the void of being unemployable. It must now be his calling.
However, that's the only decision that I think requires a more in-depth look by the courts in the future....for if this man has no means of earning a "legally-gained" penny to his name, then as a fallible human being, as we all are, who knows if he might once again turn to earning a living illegally. It doesn't help to clear him, yet tie his hands. Give him a chance to earn an honest living and not have to depend on handouts for the rest of his life. God speed Mr. Garcia.

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Posted by Thora Jones 1 year, 8 months ago
I hope the government continues to search for a country to accept Mr. Garcia. He should be forced to go to the first country that will accept him and not be allowed to pick and choose where he will go. Because of his age, it won't be easy finding a country to accept him.

It is funny. I have never seen Mr. Commissiong do anything to help Bajans in need. He finds great satisfaction in fighting against the Bajan government to get help for foreigners, like the stranded Africans and Mr. Garcia. He takes from Bajan society, but I never see him giving anything back.

  • 18
Posted by Cheese On 1 year, 8 months ago
Only Bout Hay!

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Posted by Bim Bum 1 year, 8 months ago
His nightmare continues
from hurdle to obstacle and back to hurdle!

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Posted by Samuel Shank 1 year, 8 months ago
So would someone please tell me how we are going to guarantee Garcia's safety once he is released. I am sure there are people out there in the streets who do not agree that we should be paying to support him and who would consider 'bumping" him off. Are we now going to have to pay for a security team for him for the remainder of his life or his stay in Bim?
How is he going to make a living to support himself?

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Posted by nancy story 1 year, 8 months ago
@Thora Jones You must solely rely on the newspaper for enlightenment and awareness. Mr. Commissong's contribution to Barbados and Barbadians is so understated that I often ponder what drives such a selfless soul to keep giving and helping folks of all walks of life. Your misconceived assumption is unfortunate AT BEST. Oftentimes the greatest accomplishment or a dedicated effort does not reach the public eye. Search out the truth for yourself, do not allow your mind to be fed by a steady staple of print media alone.

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