'to hell and back': Anthony Carmona

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Long road from Santa Flora

By Richard Charan richard.charan@trinidadexpress.com

SANTA Flora-born Justice Anthony Carmona, who as a child thought he wouldn't amount to much, was yesterday nominated by the Government to become the fifth President of Trinidad and Tobago.

When the decision to select Carmona, 59, was made yesterday, he was contacted while presiding over a criminal trial at the San Fernando Supreme Court, and asked to travel into Port of Spain to sign his nomination form.

Before adjourning the case, Carmona, who was advised by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar beforehand that he was being considered, told the court he had received a telephone call that required him to leave immediately.

Carmona will have to quit two jobs to assume the presidency.

In December 2011, Carmona learnt that he was elected as a judge of the International Criminal Court in The Hague in the Netherlands.

In acknowledging his appointment then, Justice Carmona, speaking from the bench in the San Fernando Supreme Court, gave an insight into his life and career.

Carmona said he wrote the Common Entrance examination at the Santa Flora Government Primary School at age 11, and he never thought he would become a judge, or serve as a judicial officer in another country.

Carmona, who moved from Dalley Village, Santa Flora to Crest Camp, Fyzabad during his childhood, said his achievement was proof that a person can reach "heights unanticipated, by sheer hard work."

Carmona thanked all who contributed to his legal growth, including former president Arthur NR Robinson whom he accompanied to the United States while he (Robinson) formulated statutes for the ICC.

Robinson was integral in the formation of ICC which was created in 2002.

Carmona said Robinson came from a small state but he raised the idea and the world listened.

"He is a great man and an outstanding citizen," Carmona said then. Carmona said he had experience in The Hague, prosecuting persons charged with war crimes against humanity and genocide, including generals, camp captains and politicians.

He said he dealt with convictions from countries where "some of the greatest atrocities took place."

"It can all be summed up as I have been to hell and back ... I am humbled to participate in international law," Carmona said then.

Carmona's appointment to the ICC became effective March last year, for a term of nine years.

Carmona, who attended Presentation College, San Fernando, studied at University of the West Indies and Sir Hugh Wooding Law School before he became a senior counsel.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree in English and Political Science and Bachelor of Laws (Hons).

He worked in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions where he said he gained legal growth and experience. He reached the position of Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Deputy DPP, and Acting DPP).

From 2001 to 2004, Carmona was an Appeals Counsel at the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

He was also legal adviser in criminal law to Robinson on matters related to the ICC, was a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Legislative Review Committee and National Alcohol and Drug Programme, and was appointed to a one-person disciplinary tribunal hearing allegations of misconduct of senior civil servants.

In 2004, Carmona was appointed a judge at the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago.

"I never dreamt at the age of 11 when I wrote Common Entrance at the Santa Flora Government School, I would one day be sitting her and even sitting in The Hague," Carmona said.

On March 17, Carmona will be President.

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