Southern Cameroons Crisis: Sisiku’s Attorney on Defending the NERA 10 0



“Our Resolve to Stage a Peaceful Protest in front of the Principal Prison Kondengui Yaoundé to press on the Justice and Penitentiary Administrations to grant us access to our clients is maintained”

The defense Team of Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and the nine others in the Yaoundé Principal Prison is disappointed to announce that the Penitentiary and Justice Administrations have denied us access to our clients in their Prison.

Our senior colleague Barrister Emmanuel Simh had gone to the prison on July 15th, 2020 to meet with the superintendent, Mr.Isidore Angoule, to express this difficulty that we have been facing for over four months.

Mr.Angoule gave him his word that he will enable us to meet our clients after the hearing of their case, on July 17th, 2020. Sadly, upon our arrival, the officers on post stated that high instructions from hierarchy forbid lawyers from accessing their clients whereas other visitors were granted access. The superintendent was reported not to be on seat. Several attempts to get to him on phone were futile.

In reaction to the ban, Senior Emmanuel Simh called the Minister Delegate in the Ministry of Justice Jean de Dieu Momo, whom we know has been a human rights defender in the past, but he failed to react accordingly and we were obliged to stage a peaceful sit-in in front of the Principal Prison in Kondengui Yaoundé. We consider this as fatal to the right of counsel protected by section 240 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code “counsel shall visit his client, in detention only between the hours of six (6) am and six (6) pm”.

Additionally, section 41 of decree No.92/052 of the 27th of March 1992 regulating the Penitentiary Administration in Cameroon guarantees the right of detainees to communicate with their counsel whenever they wish during visit without the presence of any guard.

The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Resolutions in December 17th, 2015 on the Mandela Rules wherein minimum conditions for detainees were reinforced especially rule 61-1 in particular. These rights are absolute, fundamental and foundational to the Constitutional rights of any citizen or accused

Violations of the above instruments by the Penitentiary and Justice administrations are a deliberate attempt to continue to humiliate not only lawyers but our clients whom we represent. In this desperate situation, we CANNOT and SHALL NOT cross our arms to watch them persist in their illegal acts destined to frustrate us in our practice and most importantly to drag our profession into mud in the eyes of the public.

We have resolved to return to the Principal Prison Kondengui as soon as possible, to cause the Penitentiary and Justice authorities to grant us access to our clients. We invite counsel of the entire defense team and other learned colleagues, who have been perpetually harassed, disgraced, humiliated, and denied opportunity to assist their clients properly, to join us in our action that day. Our plea is that this call for action be heeded to so that the powers that be sit up, perform their functions, obey and respect the institutions of the Republic of Cameroon by permitting us to perform our duties as lawyers as well.

It should be recalled that over two years ago, the then Cameroun Minister of Communication, Mr.Issa Tchiroma, announced that 47 of our fellow citizens had been arrested in Nigeria, and put under custody for being ‘suspected’ terrorists. Our clients, Mr Julius Ayuk Tabe, Pr. Augustine Awasum, Barrister Elias Eyambe, Dr Henry Kimeng, Dr Fidelis Nde-Che, Dr Cornelius Njikimpi Kwanga, Dr Nfor Ngalla Nfor, Dr Egbe Ogork, Barrister Blaise Shufai Berinyuy, Mr Wilfred Tassang were among them. On August 19th and 20th, 2019, they were sentenced to life imprisonment.

During the nineteen hour charade, our Clients were unrepresented, as we had withdrawn our appearances in protest of the gross travesties. Even so, the Court proceeded to carry out a lopsided trial, condemned them to life and set onerous and unconscionable conditions of Appeal – amongst them payment of deposit fees of Five Million Francs FCFA. The case is before the Court of Appeal, for the Centre Region. It is with considerable frustration and dismay that the Cameroun Government through the Ministry of Justice is doing nothing to ensure that rights of the defense are protected. Severally and without any formal apology, the legal department-prosecution failed to produce our clients before the court during three consecutive hearings.

During the last hearing on July 16th, 2020 they were finally produced before the court. The presiding judge ordered the clerk of the session to call the matters on the cause list and then proceeded to call the names of the appellants. That was done and as we were waiting for the interpreter to translate the opening remarks of the judge into English to the understanding of our clients, we were surprised to see and hear the judge in utter vexatious utterances pursuing in the French language “…ils sont où les AyukTabe là? —–ils ne sont pas dans la salle —– nous ne sommes pas en guerre ici!! —– ils doivent se lever et se présenter à la barre ——l’affaire est renvoyée au 20 août 2020”.

Invariably the collegiate bench and the prosecution all French Speaking were very unresponsive to the usage of English in violation of section 26 of Law No 2019/019 of 24th December 2019, and the case was adjourned to 20 August 20th, 2020. This decision to adjourn was suomoto.

We bring the above violations of the law visited on our client held in prisons across Cameroon to the attention of the international community, local and international press to know that “Our Resolve to as demonstrated last July 17th 2020 to Stage a Peaceful Protest in front of the Principal Prison Kondengui Yaoundé to press on the Justice and penitentiary administrations to grant us access to our clients is maintained.

That, we have as duty to uphold the rule of law and respect of institutions to ensure that the basic rights of our clients are respected. That as advocates of justice we shall never be mute to incongruous acts of injustice for if we dare, this shall tantamount to complicity to injustice and anathema to the right of defense of our clients.

Done in Buea

This 22 July 2020

Barrister Amungwa Tanyi Nico