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EDITORIAL: A test of rule of law

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: A test of rule of law

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The recent decision in the Raul Garcia case brings an element of finality to the issue of how to deal with troublesome matters which touch on Barbados’ sovereignty.
But it also has implications for the maintenance of the rule of law in a society that espouses human rights in the context of our democracy.
The Garcia case is one which would trouble the sensitivities of ordinary law abiding Barbadians who may not be able easily to separate the individual and whatever he may have done from the need for objectivity when issues of national security clash with the human rights of the person involved.
As everyone knows, Garcia’s initial entry to these shores was not designed to enhance the well-being of the society. But he has served his time and punishment in accordance with our laws and cannot now be further imprisoned with lawful justification if we are to uphold the basic tenets of the law which we have primarily and vicariously subscribed to in our Constitution; which reflects our escape from the bondage of colonialism and the historic abomination to our kind of the iniquitous practice of slavery.
That Mr Garcia is unable to find a country to receive him was peculiarly unfortunate; and we found ourselves with a complex problem which at once placed our abhorrence of criminal behaviour of the most destructive kind alongside our observance of due process, and the concomitant responsibility of the judiciary to calmly, dispassionately and independently, distill the applicable legal principles and apply them in accordance with the principles of the rule of law.
We urge support for this enlightened and sensitive decision, because it is always wise that rational objectivity should trump emotional responses. Of course, there are important lessons to be culled from this experience.
Our human rights protect us and those within our boundaries, and even those who would on first contact with our law seek to breach and dishonour those laws are covered thereby for their general protection.
We cannot have one law for Barbadians and another for our visitors, and we congratulate Mr David Commissiong and his legal team because it is important for us to remember that attorneys at law constitute the first and sometimes the only line of defence which the imprisoned or wronged person might have in his battle against the mighty agents of the state.
We owe a great deal of our protection under the law not only to the written law itself but also to those lawyers who are spirited enough to take the constitutional point against the authorities whoever they may be. 
There are other examples of issues which require the eternal vigilance of the society and the legal profession, for some of the oppressive laws of earlier times, before our Independence, still haunt the corridors of freedom seeking whom they may devour.
If we have not spoken about the judge whose duty it was to adjudicate this sensitive issue it is not because we take the judiciary for granted; but because the traditions and integrity of our courts and judges are so well entrenched that we go about our daily business fully confident always that we can rely on them to properly discharge their onerous duties in accordance with their oaths of office, while upholding the rule of law.
That duty, we think, was properly discharged in Garcia’s case.