27, March 2017
It has emerged many Judges believe the arrest and detention of an Advocate General of the Supreme Court of Cameroon is an insult, but do not dare to make their opinion public. Lord Justice Paul Ayah Abine, advocate general at the Supreme Court was arrested in his home as part of a government crackdown on the Anglophone community.
A Francophone Judge last week blatantly refused to release him from detention as demanded by his lawyers who stated that his arrest violated Cameroon’s criminal proceedings. According to article 629 of the Code of Criminal Procedure: when a magistrate of the judicial order is liable to be charged with an offense, the competent public prosecutor submits an application to the president of the Supreme Court who appoints a magistrate to examine the case and three others, at least at the same level as the accused, with a view to the possible trial of the case in the first instance.
The deliberate silence maintained by the Judges of the Supreme Court of Cameroon on the detention of Lord Justice Paul Ayah Abine is worrying. The magistrates have been saying privately that they are very unhappy about what is happening. But are subject to a certain law of silence and therefore, cannot express themselves publicly about their discontent. Local media reports say there is an urgent need for the establishment of a magistrates ‘union, as is the case in the Republic of Chad.
One of the magistrates who spoke to us and sued for anonymity observed that “In a system such as ours where the Head of State appoints the magistrates and he can sanction them, transfer them as he pleases and where everyone is trying to preserve his advantages or his post. They cannot complain publicly. But it is rather striking that the magistrates remained absolutely silent before the cavalier arrest of one of their own.”
The silence of Cameroonian Magistrates and Judges is surprising when one considers that Lord Justice Ayah Paul is a very high magistrate who has been the subject of an arrest and lengthy police custody.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai