Derek Ramsamooj fights on
Regional analyst threatens legal action against Suriname, Caricom
RAMSAMOOJ... detained in Suriname since October 2020

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Lawyers representing Trinidadian political analyst Derek Ramsamooj have given Suriname and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) until August 31 to ensure that he is allowed to seek medical treatment overseas or be prepared to face legal proceedings before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

In a nine-page letter sent to Caricom Secretary General Dr Carla Barnett and copied to regional prime ministers, attorney Justin Phelps of Bethany Chambers in Trinidad said that their client, who was summarily detained in Suriname in October, 2020 and was not allowed to leave the Dutch-speaking Caricom country since his release, suffers from a range of medical issues including diabetes, hypertension, and severe coronary artery disease.

"This letter is formal legal correspondence which concerns gross and continuing violations of my client's rights as a member of the Caribbean Community having rights conferred by the Charter of Civil Society adopted by the Conference the Heads of Government on 19th February 1997, reaffirming the human rights of the peoples of the community, and as a natural person to whom the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies.

"My client relies, without reservation upon all of his rights under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all parts of the jus gentium having application to the unlawful and politically motivated denial of his human right to freedom of movement by the State of Suriname…," the lawyers said in the August 5 letter to the Caricom secretary general.

Last month, St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves hinted at the possibility of the matter involving Ramsamooj, whose Trinidad and Tobago and United Kingdom passports have been kept by police in Suriname for the past two years, going before the CCJ.

Gonsalves, speaking at the news conference marking the end of the 43rd Caricom summit in Suriname, told reporters that President Chandrikapersad Santokhi, the new Caricom chairman, had sought to explain the situation within their domestic jurisdiction.

"I want to say that every member state of Caricom has signed on to the Charter of Civil Society and…enjoined to respect the fundamental rights and freedom of every single individual within the Community so long as they come within our jurisdiction.

"So that if anyone has any issue, you address that within the national jurisdiction. If it touches and concerns the issue of movement of persons and it concerns the treaty itself, well then you go to the CCJ," said Gonsalves, an attorney and the longest serving head of government within the 15-member regional integration grouping.

President Santokhi told reporters at the summit that the case had been discussed "by at least two prime ministers with me and that case is still pending in court". He did not name the two regional prime ministers.

Without calling Ramsamooj by name, President Santokhi said "the person is subject to criminal investigation and the person has the status of suspect. He is not prosecuted yet and there are, yes, some issues which are hampering to expedite his case".

Ramsamooj, 60, is yet to have his documents returned. Ramsamooj, who has worked as a political analyst in the Caribbean, including in Jamaica, Guyana, Grenada, Suriname, St Lucia, and St Kitts-Nevis, was told by Suriname police on October 6, 2020, that they only wanted a statement to support an enquiry into operations at the Surinamese Post Savings Bank (SPSB).

Ramsamooj had conducted for the SPSB, customer surveys, as well as bank employee surveys, in addition to conducting two country risk assessments of Suriname in his capacity as an analyst and researcher. The activities were paid for by the financial institution.

Ramsamooj also developed and worked alongside strategic partners in Suriname to create and manage the global high forest low deforestation conference at the request of Suriname in February 2019. The police said his invoices for this work were "fraudulent".

In the letter to the Caricom secretary general, a copy of which has been obtained by the Caribbean Media Corporation, the lawyers said that their "client has been identified (wrongfully) as a political opponent of the political party which now holds Government in Suriname", noting that there was a change of Government during the time when Ramsamooj was waiting to leave Suriname but was prevented by airport closures due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

They said that their client "has cooperated fully with the authorities in Suriname and intends to defend all proceedings in that country within the legal system of that country" and that "nothing in this letter, challenges in any manner whatsoever the sovereignty of the State of Suriname.

"…This letter is solely concerned with the gross violation of my client's rights under Caribbean Community and international law, which have caused him irreparable injury and threaten to cost him his life."

The lawyers note that since his detention in October 2020, "no charges were brought" against their client, until April 2021 and that their client has "categorically" denied those charges which the lawyer has described as "baseless".

The law firm noted that it is "important to reiterate" that their "client fully intends to defend these proceedings to the end in order to clear his good name and excellent reputation acquired over more than 25 years of diligent practice in his field at the highest level".

The lawyers noted that during a court hearing in Suriname on June 6, 2022, the presiding judge stated in open court that Ramsamooj's human rights would be observed but notwithstanding those remarks their "client's passports and certain other possessions were not returned with the result that he continues to be denied the important and pressing opportunity to travel to Trinidad and Tobago or the United Kingdom for the medical attention he needs.

The letter states that the summary of facts as outlined in their correspondence "demonstrate beyond any doubt that the State of Suriname has and continues to violate the human rights of [their] client, and in particular, the rights of [their] client which the states of the Caribbean Community have expressly declared to be held by him" .

The lawyers "respectfully suggest" that if their client's complains are credible "as they most certainly are" then Caricom is "obliged" to act within the spirit of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and international law to ensure Ramamooj "is not denied urgent medical attention".

"In default of positive action on the part of the Caribbean Community, the Caricom rule of law would be open to butchery wherever it was politically expedient at the national level," the letter said, noting that Caricom has been made aware of the situation regarding Ramsamooj with the matter being raised at news conferences attended by regional leaders in the past five months.

The letter is urging the secretary general "to take all appropriate measures…to ensure the carrying out by the State of Suriname of its obligations arising under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and the decisions taken by Caricom".

The law firm said it has their client's instruction to bring legal proceedings against Suriname and Caricom before the CCJ in order to "ventilate the gross and internationally embarrassing violations he has endured and continues to endure.

"In those proceedings he expects that his human rights will be protected…," the letter notes, giving the regional grouping until August 31 to respond or face legal proceedings thereafter.

GONSALVES... had hinted at the possibility of the matter involving Ramsamooj going before the CCJ
SANTOKHI... told reporters that at least two prime ministers had discussed the case with him
Caricom Secretary General Dr Carla Barnett

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