UN Secretary General, Human Rights Commissioner receive Anglophone grievances
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein have received petitions detailing the grievances of the minority Anglophone people in Cameroon.
The petition is signed by Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla, Head of Agbor Nkongho Law Firm; Dr. Fontem A. Neba, Secretary General, National Union of Higher Education Teachers – SYNES-UB Chapter; Barrister Justice Ebah Ntoko, Head of Justice Law Firm Mutengene and Member of the Cameroon Bar Council; Ayuk Nkwa Pacal, President, Law Society, University of Buea; and Salim Sango Aliyu, Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa. The petition was sent to the UN head quarters last week and it addresses the grave human rights violations being committed by security forces against the English speaking minority in the Republic of Cameroon.
Below is the letter:
Subject: Attention to a pattern of grave human rights violations being committed by the security forces against the English speaking minority in the Republic of Cameroon
1.On behalf of the Common Law Lawyers, Teachers’ Union and Civil Society Organizations of the South West and North West Regions of the Republic of Cameroon, we would like to bring to your attention a pattern of grave human rights violations being committed against the civilian population including, lawyers, teachers, students, women, children and civil society organizations by the security forces in the Republic of Cameroon.
2.These grievous violations are happening within the context of peaceful and non-violent protests being organized in the past two months in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon by lawyers, teachers and students, to express their frustrations, dissatisfaction and discontent towards the continued marginalization of the English speaking minority in Cameroon. The protests are also meant to denounce institutionalized discrimination and human rights violations being committed against the English speaking minority as well as practical steps being taken over a prolonged period of time by the Government of Cameroon with the intention of completely undermining the bi-cultural, bi-jural and bilingual specificities of the Republic of Cameroon as enshrined in the constitution.
3.In direct response to actions by the government to undermine the common law system being practiced by the English speaking minority, through the appointment of civil law trained magistrates to the common law jurisdictions who more often than not don’t speak and/or understand English language; the language used in the Courts of the common law jurisdictions of South West and North West regions. Other grievances include but not limited to, failure to provide legal texts in English; inability and unwillingness by the government to put in place institutional guarantees to preserving the tradition and practice of the Common Law, the lawyers, after numerous attempts to bring this to the attention of the relevant government authorities without success, started a series of peaceful demonstrations on 8 November 2016 in Bamenda and 10 November 2016 in Buea, respectively the headquarter towns of the North West and South West Regions. In exercising their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, enshrined in national and international law, lawyers have been subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Wigs and gowns belonging to some lawyers have been seized while their offices have been illegally searched and vandalized accompanied by the seizure of important documentation.
4.Similarly, teachers, students and some members of the population including women who have been opposing attempts by the national authorities to “francophonise” the Anglo-Saxon educational system have systematically been targeted by security forces. Despite the fact that teachers called for a civil disobedience “sit-in” campaign and students, have organized peaceful assemblies to air their grievances, they remain primary targets of security forces. We have documented at least 6 persons killed by the security forces in Bamenda, North West Region, scores of people brutalized and injured by the security forces and subsequently arrested and arbitrarily detained in Limbe, Buea, Tiko, Kumba and Bamenda, while hundreds continue to be subjected to acts of constant intimidation and humiliation.
5.Also alarming is that female students of the University of Buea have been molested, physically assaulted with allegations of at least a female student raped on 28 November 2016 in Buea by a police officer.
6.The aforementioned acts are happening under the watch of regional and national administrative and security authorities without any concrete steps taken to put a stop to them and identify and/or hold perpetrators accountable. This prevailing climate of impunity is amplifying the pattern of human rights violations.
7.We approach your instance because with cogent evidence in our possession and in the custody of credible national and international institutions, we have established the commission of systematic violations of the right to life, right to physical integrity, freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; the freedom of opinion and expression and right to liberty and security of person. These acts by security forces are orchestrated to instill fear in and to intimidate the population, while restricting the role of human rights defenders such as lawyers. They are also intended to compromise the independence of lawyers in upholding the due process rights and speaking out on behalf of the minority, marginalized and vulnerable. In this regard, we can establish that the Republic of Cameroon is reneging on its international obligations to promote and protect the human rights of its citizens especially the English speaking minority.
8. It is our stance that the systematic nature of these acts gives reasons to believe that they are being planned, ordered and executed, and therefore cannot be seen as isolated acts of some unruly Police/Gendarmes/Military officers. In order to maintain the professionalism of the Police/Gendarmes/Military which in large parts is made up of trained personnel, we are calling for immediate action to be taken to ensure accountability in these cases.
9.Due to the absence of a credible and concrete move by the relevant authorities to initiate investigations into these abhorrent human rights violations, we are left with no other choice than to bring same to your attention, while at the same time, soliciting your prompt action in putting a stop to this wave of human rights violations by the security forces.
10.We remain steadfast in our call for a credible, independent and fair investigation into these crimes to be carried out by an independent Commission of Inquiry.
We are in custody of evidence of high probative value, including oral testimonies and real time videos to substantiate our assertions and will be willing to share same with you upon request. We emphasize our unwavering determination to continue advocating in a peaceful manner, consistent with national and international law, for the respect of all the rights of the English speaking minority in Cameroon.