February 22, 2007

UNPO to UN: Urgent Action Needed in Southern Cameroons

UNPO appeals to the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression for international action regarding persecution against the Southern Cameroons community.

The Hague, 22 February 2007 – UNPO remains deeply concerned about deteriorating human rights conditions in Southern Cameroons and therefore appeals to the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression for international action regarding persecution against the Southern Cameroons community.

Mr. Nfor Ngala Nfor (54), UNPO Member Representative, Vice Chairman of Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) and continuous advocate of Human Rights in Southern Cameroons, was arrested at a press conference in Bamenda, Southern Cameroons on 20 January 2007, where he has remained detained for over one month without formally being charged for any crime. His detention marks yet another in a lengthy series of arrests and persecutions committed against the Southern Cameroons community by authorities in the Republic of Cameroon.

Also arrested on 20 January 2007 were fellow SCNC representatives: Mbinglo H. Humphrey (65), Tantoh Simon Nshukwi (65), Achu Nji David (56), Stephen Kongnso (45), Dzeni Augustine Shieyntum (36), Henry Lamnyam (35), Lucas Ngwa Che (57), Nguemu Clement Atanga (60), Mongo Steven (43), and Mbi Ann Rita (60). SCNC is an organization which strives to provide political representation to the Southern Cameroons community and ensure Human Rights are not marginalized.

All SCNC representatives jailed have remained in Bamenda Central Prison without formal charges being issued. Bail hearings scheduled for 13 February 2007, already twenty-four days after their arrest, were further postponed until 20 February 2007.

Reports indicate over 200 hundred activists, including representatives from human rights organizations and journalists, gathered to observe hearings on 20 February 2007, however were forced to exit the courtroom as hearings proceeded without public witness. Hearings were set to reconvene on 22 February 2007 and despite the reported presence of over 300 activists they were further delayed until 27 February 2007.

UNPO condemns the blatant breach of international law guaranteeing individuals freedom of expression and assembly and the right to due legal process, therefore UNPO has appealed to Ms. Hina Jilani, Special Rapporteur of the General Assembly on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, and Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression to:

Investigate these cases of arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention and, in accordance with Your mandate, seek assurances from the Government of the Republic of Cameroon that these individuals, as defenders of human rights, are afforded their full rights as enshrined in the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

Remind the Republic of Cameroon authorities of their obligations under internationally recognised standards of Human Rights, including the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms; and

Consider a country visit to the Republic of Cameroon during which You may evaluate and report on the Government of the Republic of Cameroon’s practices with respect to local defenders of Human Rights, with particular attention to their policy towards those defending the rights of minority communities and indigenous peoples, such as the Southern Cameroons community.

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