According to information received, on February 25 2008, the riots which troubled the country since the President announced his intention to amend the Constitution in order to run for another term have caused numerous victims and thousands of arrests. Numerous citations to appear before the courts and immediate trials are taking place in the whole Cameroonian territory.
The Special Rapporteur is particularly concerned about the report on disproportionate use of force by government officials, the wide range of arbitrary arrests and the treatment of people arrested.
Following information received, expeditious trials are being held in violation of the Cameroonian penal procedure and all relevant provisions of regional and international conventions that guarantee the right to fair trial. According to certain testimonies, most of the people arrested were only viewers and onlookers, who were near the riots by pure curiosity. These people are reportedly tried by groups of 6 at a time, in hearings lasting not more than five minutes each and during which the presentation of concrete evidence or witnesses is subsidiary.
In addition, it was reported that offices of media which did not relay official information, have been destroyed and others closed as it is the case of the radio "Magic FM" in Yaoundé. The latter was closed after organising a debate on 27 February following the TV broadcasted intervention of President Paul Biya during which severe criticisms were emitted concerning his management of the crisis and his intention to amend the constitution. Some journalists were also arrested, such as Jean Blaise Mvié, Director of publication of the newspaper "the New Press" who was later released.
The Special Rapporteur is particularly preoccupied by the situation of human rights defenders who are constantly under threat. She expresses concern over the case of Mrs. Madeleine Afité, president of la Maison des droits de l’Homme du Cameroun (MDHC) who has been threatened to death on several occasions these days. Her car was also ransacked during the night of 5 to 6 March, 2008 for having denounced, notably to the international media, human rights violations that are currently being perpetrated in Cameroon.
The Special Rapporteur requests Cameroonian authorities:
- To guarantee the physical integrity and the right to life of civilians and human rights defenders alike in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples` Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
- To put an end to all disproportionate use of police force, to cease massive arrests and ensure equitable trial to people arrested in accordance with the right to a fair trial and to legal principle of appeal;
- To guarantee the freedom of the press, freedom of information and diffusion, free movement of journalists and all human rights defenders;
The Special Rapporteur requests that all the truth prevails so that those responsible for human rights violations are brought to justice, mainly those responsible for summary and extra-judiciary executions.
The Special Rapporteur also reminds the Cameroonian authorities of their obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples` Rights, the Kigali and Grand Bay Declarations. She calls upon them to respect the principles enshrined in article 1 of the Declaration on human rights defenders which prescribes the right to each and everyone, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and the realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at national and international levels and with article 12.2 of the same Declaration which mainly stipulates that: “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of anyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressures or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.
The Secretariat of the African Commission