Mar 07, 2007

Southern Cameroons: Hearings Delayed Yet Again

07 March 2007 - Representatives of Southern Cameroons National Council, including Nfor Ngala Nfor, remain in detention, following the 20 January 2007 arrests. The Bamenda court has repeatedly postponed bail hearings, with yesterday's hearing now deferred until 13 March 2007. The lack of respect for internationally recognised civil and political rights by the Cameroonian authorities has been met with growing international condemnation and concern.

The Hague, 07 March 2007 – More than a month since their initial arrest on 20 January 2007 Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) representatives are still held in detention in Bamenda central prison. UNPO considers the case a clear violation of obligations mandated by international humanitarian law, including the right to due legal process.

Reports indicate 500 activists gathered on 27 February 2007 to witness the then twice-rescheduled hearings of these representatives, however all visitors were again barred from the courtroom. Human rights activists and journalists also present to document the hearing were purportedly also removed from the courtroom.

The SCNC representatives to be addressed at these hearings are: UNPO Member Representative Nfor Ngala Nfor (54), 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). [pictured left]

All were arrested at a SCNC press conference held in Bamenda, Southern Cameroons on 20 January 2007 and were subsequently transferred to Bamenda central prison. Since their arrest, these individuals have been detained while not having been formally charged with any crime.

More information: “Continued Concerns: Mass Arrests in Southern Cameroons

Bail hearings were initially scheduled for 13 February 2007, already twenty-four days after the arrest of these SCNC representatives, however were further postponed until 20 February 2007. In response to their delayed bail hearings, those detained protested with a one-day hunger strike on 16 February 2007.

More information: “Southern Cameroons: Prisoners on Hunger Strike”

Over 200 hundred activists congregated at Bamenda courthouse for the 20 February 2007 hearings only to be removed from the courtroom; signally hearings for SCNC representatives would proceed behind closed doors.

Hearings were set to commence again on 22 February 2007, however reports indicate presiding judge, Justice Julius Nchuthey, failed to appear in court and hearings were again postponed until 27 February 2007. SCNC Chariman Chief Ayamba Ette Otun led the 300 activists congregated at the courthouse in a sit-down strike from 11.00 until 14.00 in protest of the detention of SCNC members and their delayed bail hearings.

As those authorities responsible for the arrest of SCNC Vice-Chairman Nfor Ngala Nfor and other SCNC representatives were not present during hearings on 27 February 2007, further hearings were adjourned until 6 March, then again until 13 March 2007.

Reports indicate Tantoh Simon Nshukwi has been assigned a different magistrate from the one slated to conduct bail hearings for Nfor Ngala Nfor and the other SCNC representatives. As this magistrate failed to appear in court on 27 February 2007, bail hearings for Tantoh Simon Nshukwi have also been postponed.

In a press release issued 22 February 2007 by SCNC, Chief Ayamba calls the decision to delay hearings further efforts “to prolong the detention of SCNC leaders and activists and to further endanger their health. Many are suffering from health problems consequent upon deplorable conditions and total lack of medical care in prison." Chief Ayamba recalls that in October 2006 the SCNC lost two of its leaders, namely Philip Tete and Henry Nchadzeka, at the same Bamenda Central Prison.

Further, SCNC urgently calls on the UN Human Rights Council to issue a fact-finding mission to Southern Cameroons to investigate the current human rights situation.

UNPO strongly denounces this demonstration of disrespect for basic international human rights law, continues to appeal for the immediate release of Nfor Ngala Nfor and calls for La Republique du Cameroun to act according to its obligations and guarantee due legal process.

More information: UNPO Appeals to UN for Urgent Action