Yaounde, 18 Sept. 2019 (CABNC): – Striking Lawyers in Cameroon has brought the law courts to a complete shutdown as they continue to protest what they claimed as “unbearable human rights violations”. Despite the threat from the government, the lawyers continue to protest cases of torture, illegal and prolonged detention of accused persons, all-action goes again United Nations Human Rights Guarantee to which Cameroon is a member.
Effects of the Strikes
Patrick Mbella, 45, who is in pre-trial detention for aggravated theft, says when he arrived at the court on Wednesday morning, his lawyer was not there. The judge ordered that Mbella be taken back to detention as the discussions between government and striking lawyers have broken down.
In a similar manner, 368 cases have been on the schedule at the Ekounou tribunal in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, since 16th of September and none of them have been heard. A delegate at Cameroon’s Ministry of Justice, Jean de Dieu Momo, says nearly a million cases that were to be heard in courts all over the country this week have been affected. “It is our job to make sure that the lawyers are independent, working freely without any disturbance from anyone. Lawyers, magistrates, military, people involved with security are together to work, to find out sustainable solutions,” Momo said.
Observers have noted that the ongoing strike will also derail President Paul Biya efforts to strike a compromise in the national dialogue to solve the separatist conflict rocking the country. Pierre Bayo, political analysts, and lecturer at the University of Yaounde say the lawyers’ strike may affect the national dialogue Biya announced September. 10 to resolve issues in his country, which is in the midst of a separatist conflict that pits its French and English-speaking populations against each other.
What are the issues?
“The appearance of naked detainees at public hearings, the extortion of confessional statements through torture and fraud, prolonged illegal detentions, situations of abusive detentions despite release orders, silence concerning some complaints made by lawyers, the refusal to acknowledge receipt of correspondences with written proof thereof” Peter Seme of the Cameroon Bar Association has stated in a statement from the country’s lawyers explaining why they stopped working. He listed rights violations that included the cruel humiliation of detainees by authorities.
Members of the Cameroon Bar Association ignored a Sept. 5 resolution adopted during a meeting convened by the government for them to call off the strike action.
Jean de Dieu Momo has offered reassurances on behalf of the government to the lawyers, saying the government has called on the military, the police and others in the judicial system to immediately address the lawyers’ concerns.
Cameroonian President Biya has also given instructions for judicial processes to be sped up after a prison protest last July over poor conditions that included overcrowded detention centers.
Government officials expect the lawyers to call off their action soon.