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INL Supports Adjudicating Maritime Crime as part of Judicial Keep-In-Touch (KIT) Forum

On January 27, 2023, INL's Caribbean Anti-Crime Grant, implemented by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), convened its 28th virtual Judicial KIT. The program provided an overview of Caribbean laws, treaties and case studies involving maritime crime.

Approximately 45 judges, magistrates and attorneys attended the KIT session from 9 countries: The Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos and St. Vincent & The Grenadines. Attendees included Chief Justices, Judges, Masters, Magistrates, Attorneys, and Court Administrators. The key speaker was Dr. Ian Ralby, a globally recognized Maritime Law and Security expert. He has worked with national and international organizations including US Department of Defense’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Global Maritime Crime Program, UNDP, and NCSC.

For decades, criminals have taken advantage of that geography to steal resources, move people and goods illegally, and undermine the rule of law while pursuing illicit profits. Recent capacity building efforts and cooperative security agreements have increased the ability of maritime law enforcement agencies around the region to identify and interdict maritime crime cases. With this uptick in interdiction, the focus is now shifting toward supporting regional capacity to prosecute maritime cases, and with that comes a growing demand on the region’s judiciaries to effectively adjudicate such matters.

Key areas emphasized in the program included a history of maritime law, specific articles aimed at suppressing illicit traffic, and three key principles when governing the seas: uniformity, preservation of human life and freedom of navigation. The presenter also underlined trends in maritime crime in the Caribbean, such as drug cartel diversification, human trafficking, terrorist travel, weapons trafficking, piracy, and armed robbery at sea.

Overall, Dr. Ralby, a highly experienced maritime security expert, highlighted regional challenges such as variations in declaring maritime zones, outdated piracy laws, limited legal cooperation and gaps in law covering new maritime activities, technologies, and criminal modalities. Dr. Ralby, an advisor to CARICOM IMPACT, also provided an overview of The Treaty of San Jose, which aims to streamline the process for maritime drug interdiction in the Caribbean through building regional capacity, protecting sovereign rights, reducing the slow process of boarding, and providing protocols for law enforcement.

Judicial KIT speaker Dr. Ralby presenting on The Fundamental Debate in Maritime Law

Judicial KIT speaker Dr. Ralby presenting on New Activities in Maritime Crime

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