Three civil society leaders in Cameroon remain imprisoned in solitary confinement and on trial for leading peaceful protests, following their court appearance on 27 July.
The trial of Felix Balla Nkongho, Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibixy in a military court in the capital, Yaoundé, was adjourned for the third time since it began over six months ago. The activists face various spurious charges, some which, like treason and terrorism, carry the death penalty. A fourth activist, Justice Ayah Paul Abine is being held incommunicado at the Secretariat for Defense while hundreds of others remain detained at the Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé.
The activists were arrested in January 2017 after publicly raising concerns against the marginalisation of Cameroonians in the country’s Anglophone North West and South West regions, by the Francophone regime of President Paul Biya. They had called for the reforms in the legal and education system. Their organisation, the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC), has been banned.
We strongly condemn the ongoing arbitrary arrests and unjustified prosecution of individuals opposing the atrocities in defiance of human rights standards. The international community has a responsibility to help end the cycle of persecution in Cameroon. “We strongly condemn the ongoing arbitrary arrests and unjustified prosecution of individuals opposing the atrocities in defiance of human rights standards. The international community has a responsibility to help end the cycle of persecution in Cameroon.” Said Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS:
The trial itself has been marked by irregularities and a lack of due process. In the latest proceedings, the judge began by kicking one of the defence attorneys out of court. The defence team’s representations in English were also mistranslated into French by the court interpreter. In addition, the judge claimed that the state was not aware of the trial of the activists.
CIVICUS also expresses growing concern at the deepening human rights crisis. Reports of human rights violations in the Anglophone regions include the shooting and killing of unarmed protesters; arbitrary arrests; detention without trial; torture; legal harassment and unjust prosecutions; the targeting of journalists and media outlets; and the shutdown of the internet for months.
We call on the Cameroonian authorities to release all detained protesters and ensure that democratic rights to freedom of expression and assembly are respected.
We further call on the international community to increase efforts to engage the Biya regime to find lasting solutions to the conflict. We particularly urge the United Nations to intervene on behalf of barrister Nkongho, who has served the UN as a human rights and legal advisor to the UN Mission in Afghanistan, and the other activist leaders on trial.
Note: Civic space in Cameroon is rated as “repressed” by the CIVICUS Monitor, a global tracking tool of violations against the freedom of expression, association and assembly.
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CIVICUS Media Advisor