Mar 13, 2007

Southern Cameroons: Bail Granted - Yet Activists Remain Jailed

After more than 50 days of detention, the Courts have finally granted bail to SCNC members arrested at the Bamenda press conference on 20 January 2007. Yet, all remain detained and formal charges have still not been issued. UNPO is appalled at the lack of respect for civil liberties and legal standards and re-issues calls to the Authorities in Cameroon to end the persecution of members of the SCNC.

The Hague, 13 March 2007 – Following a series of delays, bail hearings finally proceeded today for those representatives of Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) arrested on 20 January 2007. Reports indicate the presiding judge announced bail would be granted, however abruptly exited the courtroom without signing the official order to grant bail.

As a result, detainees will remain jailed in Bamenda central prison without charge until official bail orders are signed.

Five previous delays in bail hearings have already resulted in a 52 day detention period for UNPO Member Representative Nfor Ngala Nfor (54) [pictured left], as well as 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).

Previous attempts at bail hearings have been adjourned due to the lacking presence of key individuals, including those responsible for ordering the arrests and the presiding judges themselves.

Reports received indicate that a large number of SCNC-members are under surveillance by the Cameroonian authorities. Moreover, when journalists, human rights activists and representatives of civil society came to the oft re-scheduled proceedings, they were repeatedly deterred from entering even the Court premises.

Reports indicate Tantoh Simon Nshukwi, who has been assigned a different magistrate from the one slated to conduct bail hearings for Nfor Ngala Nfor and the other SCNC representatives, was not granted bail, as his assigned magistrate failed for a second time to appear in court.

The reasons for the prolonged detention is seen by many as a means to keep the SCNC Members detained as a means not only to bring their legitimate activities to a standstill, but also to act as a means of deterrence to other parts of civil society to discourage voices of dissent and intimidate those campaigning for human rights in Southern Cameroons.

UNPO seriously questions the judicial proceedings of the Bamenda Court and denounces the apparent politicisation of the detention of the SCNC representatives. It is particularly noteworthy that the incident of 20 January took place without arrest warrants and that today, after 52 days in detention, no charges have been presented as of yet.

With the ongoing developments in this case being yet another display of the repressive character of the current regime, UNPO continues calls for an end to the impunity of cases where legitimate activities are met with heavy-handed, often armed, responses and works to bring to the attention of the international community the use of arbitrary arrests and intimidation as a tool of repression, against amongst others the Southern Cameroons National Council.

Click here for more information or contact Maria Skeie at the UNPO Secretariat.