Roger Khan Exposed Fragility of Caricom Unity
by Mohabir Anil Nandlall


Cartoon (from Stabroek News), depicting the US heavy-handed influence over the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the Surinamese Government, which allowed US agents to kidnap Guyanese citizen, Roger Khan. Right, the Trinidadian Government under Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who allowed Khan to be taken by US agents on Trinidadian soil.


The conduct of the executive authorities of Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, two CARICOM countries, in the rendition without due process of Roger Khan, a CARICOM national, to U.S. law enforcement officers on Trinidad and Tobago territory exposes the extent to which some CARICOM states do not respect their own sovereignty, and are inclined to subjugate their laws and legal system to the dictates of powerful nations such as the U.S.A.

Such conduct further exposes the extent to which Caribbean unity under CARICOM remains an elusive dream, and to which CARICOM as a regional institution is internally fragmented.

Soon after Guyana declared its opposition to rendition of alleged fugitive offenders without due process, two other CARICOM member states actively participated in such a process in rendering a citizen of Guyana and a CARICOM national to U.S. enforcement officers.

Suriname claims that it acted in deportation of Roger Khan to Guyana. But such a claim has a hollow ring. If that was the intention of Suriname, why was Khan kept handcuffed and shackled in Trinidad and Tobago? Why was he not deported to Guyana, but rather surrendered or abandoned into the hands of the immigration authorities in Trinidad and Tobago?

Surely, it was the responsibility of Suriname as the deporting country to deport Khan either to his own country, or to the country from which he entered Suriname. Khan is neither a national of Trinidad and Tobago nor did he enter Suriname from Trinidad and Tobago.

It must be noted that Khan was not a voluntary visitor to Trinidad and Tobago. He was forcibly taken there by Suriname law enforcement officers. If Khan was without the necessary immigration documents, it was the duty of the Trinidad and Tobago immigration authorities to ensure that he be returned to Suriname or taken to Guyana by the Surinamese law enforcement officers who took him there. Therefore, on what basis did the immigration authorities of Trinidad and Tobago accept Khan in their custody from the Surinamese law enforcement officers?

Assuming that Khan was taken into custody by the immigration authorities of Trinidad and Tobago as a fugitive from US justice, it is not open to the authorities of Trinidad and Tobago to claim that he was refused entry into Trinidad and Tobago. But this is the claim of Trinidad and Tobago. It is not open to Trinidad and Tobago to claim that Khan was refused entry into Trinidad and Tobago since Khan never sought such entry. If he was taken into custody by the authorities of Trinidad and Tobago as a fugitive from

US justice, then he was kept in Trinidad and Tobago as a fugitive offender for the purpose of extradition and therefore was not refused entry.

Since it is clear that the immigration authorities of Trinidad and Tobago did take Khan into their custody, it was their duty to deport Khan to his home country or back to Suriname from whence he was brought to Trinidad and Tobago. If it was their intention to treat Khan as a fugitive offender in their custody, then they ought to have applied their domestic law and procedures relating to extradition to Khan. These laws and procedures were deliberately ignored and by-passed. Therefore, both the U.S. and Trinidad and

Tobago were directly complicit in the abduction from the soil of Trinidad and Tobago to the USA.

It is significant to note that, while Suriname was party to the plot to have Khan abducted by the U.S. law enforcement officers, in fairness to Suriname, the Surinamese officials ensured that the actual abduction did not occur on their soil and took Khan to Trinidad and Tobago for it to occur there.

In contrast, Trinidad and Tobago had no difficulty in Khan being abducted on and from its soil by the U.S. law enforcement officers. Indeed, the authorities in Trinidad and Tobago not only permitted and facilitated the abduction but also participated in it. After all, it was they who released Khan into the custody of the U.S. law enforcement officers for him to be abducted to the U.S.A.

Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago have now opened the door for any citizen of any CARICOM country (indeed of any country) to be treated in like manner by any CARICOM State. A precedent has been set for the rendition of any CARICOM national to foreign countries without due process. Conventions have now overtaken the fundamental right to due process (according to the Attorney-General of Trinidad and Tobago). Such nationals include not only CARICOM political leaders but also government officials. This precedent sadly represents the contribution of Trinidad and Tobago to the erosion of the fundamental rights to due process of alleged fugitive offenders. It is an unwelcome precedent of subjugation of national laws and sovereignty to the U.S. dictate of rendition.

In stark contrast to the conduct of the governmental authorities of Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. law enforcement officers, in due deference to their own national laws, quickly accorded Khan his right to make a telephone call as soon as they were on U.S. soil.

Incidentally, if the claim of Suriname is correct, CARICOM deportees need not be taken to their respective countries, but can be taken to Trinidad and Tobago and left in the custody of the immigration authorities. The immigration authorities of Trinidad and Tobago accept such deportees even without the requisite documents.

It is truly amazing that the President of Suriname has not yet seen the implication of the action of the Surinamese government as a clear subscription to the U.S. dictate of rendition without due process of law.

What has been sacrificed is not the legal rights of an alleged fugitive offender but the status and reputation of Suriname (and Trinidad and Tobago) as a truly independent and democratic nation which adheres to the rule of law.

It is incredible that the Attorney-General of Trinidad and Tobago, as the principal legal advisor to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and leader of the Bar of that country, has played quite a significant role, whether advisory or directional, in the abduction and rendition of a CARICOM national without due process. If naivety can be ascribed to the

President of Suriname as a non-legal person, the same cannot be ascribed to the Attorney-General of Trinidad and Tobago. The Attorney-General of Trinidad and Tobago must be taken to have acted in full cognisance of the legal consequences of his actions and their implications for the welfare of CARICOM countries and CARICOM nationals. He must

accept full responsibility for the consequences of his actions.

The internal health of CARICOM as a regional institution is seriously jeopardised by the willingness of its member states to subjugate fundamental principles to the U.S. dictate of rendition without due process. Such subjugation cannot be part and parcel of international co-operation.

Rather, it is nothing short of national prostitution of the rule of law under the thin guise of international co-operation. Such prostitution constitutes a serious obstacle to regional strength and unity in the form of CARICOM.

If there is a new word for official misinformation and deception, that word is ‘Santokism' (from the surname of the Surinamese Minister of Justice). Minister Santoki almost completely misinformed and deceived the public in his public pronouncements on the state of affairs and his Government's position relating to Khan's arrest and incarceration in Suriname. It is difficult to believe that a linear descendant of the biblical Ananias

does exist in the person of a Minister of Justice of a CARICOM State.

There can be no doubt that the success of the U.S. in compromising the commitment of two CARICOM states to the rule of law and due process and the political integrity of governmental officials of high standing poses a serious challenge to Caribbean unity and integration.

Roger Khan has exposed not only the questionable propensities of Commissioner of Police Felix and our law enforcement forces, but also the sycophantic and compromising propensities of the leadership of so-called independent and democratic Caribbean nations. He has exposed further the intrinsic fragility of CARICOM itself as a regional institution of Caribbean unity. This was achieved at a tremendous personal expense. He is deserving of the gratitude, if not the respect, of all Caribbean nationals – even if he stands unsupported by some Caribbean governments (including the Government of Guyana).

It is ironic that the unsolicitous conduct of U.S. law enforcement agencies facilitated such exposures. Such conduct in Europe has evoked serious concern in the European Union. In Europe, the operations were at least respectfully covert. In the Caribbean, it was disrespectfully overt.

[Editor's Note: Published in Kaieteur News, July 10, 2006 as a letter. Mr. Nandlall is an executive member of the PPP Executive Committee and an attorney at law.]

July 12, 2006
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