Prolonged pre-trial detention of lawyers in Cameroon

Who we wrote to

The president of the Republic of Cameroon, Paul Biya.

What’s the issue

We wrote to the Cameroonian authorities on 13 February 2017 about the arrest and detention of several lawyers, including Nkongho Felix Agbor, Fontem Aforteka’A Neba and Paul Ayah Abine.

The lawyers are being tried by a military tribunal under Law No. 2014/028 of 28 December 2014 on suppression of acts of terrorism.

We’re concerned about:

  • the jurisdiction of a military tribunal to rule on civilian cases
  • the death penalty that applies to the crimes that the detainees have been charged with
  • possible violations of their rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and to a fair trial

We understand that the military tribunal will need to decide on 27 April 2017 whether to keep the accused in detention or release them.

What we asked for

We urged the relevant authorities to:

  • release Mr Agbor, Mr Neba, Mr Abine and others without delay
  • make sure that, pending any further proceedings, non-custodial measures are applied and only if required and in compliance with international norms
  • ensure that the persons who have been arrested and detained are tried by an ordinary court and that they can appeal any judgment through an independent, impartial judicial proceeding that’s open to the public and respects all due process rules

Timeline

17 January 2017 – Mr Agbor and Mr Neba were arrested and detained

20 January 2017 – the Commissaire du Gouvernement of the Military Tribunal of Yaoundé orders the formal detention of Mr Agbor and Mr Neba

13 February 2017 – we wrote to the president of Cameroon about our concerns regarding the arrest and detention of Mr Agbor, Mr Neba, Mr Abine and others

27 April 2017 – the military tribunal is expected to decide whether to keep the accused in detention or release them