The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cameroon.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continuing arbitrary detention of Messrs. Redemption Godlove, Kpwe Philip Abue, Biame Divine, Azong Cyprian and Fuh Bernard, members of the Esu Youth Development Association (EYDA) , at the Bamenda Central Prison. The five are community leaders opposing land-grabbing undertaken on the land of the Esu community (North-West Cameroon) by Mr. Baba Ahmadou Danpullo, a billionaire businessman, cattle rancher, tea plantation owner and a member of the Central Committee of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) party .
According to the information received, on April 22, 2016 at 2 a.m, Mr. Redemption Godlove was arrested without a warrant at his home in Esu  by six plain-clothes gendarmes, and taken to the gendarmerie legion in Bamenda for interrogation on trumped-up accusations of “arson” and “vandalism” . He was subsequently transferred to Bamenda Central Prison. On May 9, 2016, Mr. Biame Divine, Mr. Azong Cyprian and Mr. Fuh Bernard were summoned at the gendarmerie legion of Bamenda, and then taken to Bamenda Central Prison under the same accusations of “arson” and “vandalism”. On May 25, 2016, Mr. Kpwe Philip Abue was in turn arrested at a routine identity card checkpoint, and placed in detention at Bamenda Central Prison on the same grounds.
On May 31, 2016, the Chambers of the Examining Magistrate of the High Court of Mezam Division Holden at Bamenda ruled on a Preliminary Objection filed by Barrister Fon Robert, on behalf of the five above-mentioned defendants as well as of four other EYDA members who are prosecuted in the same case but were not arrested, namely Mr. Kagha Mbong Ephraim, Mr. Wung Emmanuel, Mr. Meh Ivo and Mr. Meh Williams. Examining Magistrate Justice Francis Ndip Oben relied upon Section 140 of the Criminal Procedure Code  to decline jurisdiction, and withdrew the remand warrant against Mr. Redemption Godlove, thereby cancelling those upon which the other four were detained , and effectively ordering their release.
In spite of this court decision, the Bamenda Central Prison authorities have kept the five human rights defenders in detention, under the above-mentioned accusations. The charges relate to a complaint filed in May 2016 by Mr. Baba Ahmadou Danpullo against the nine above-mentioned community leaders and the Fon (traditional ruler) of Esu, HRH Kum Achuo II, for alleged burning down of huts belonging to the workers of his “ELBA ranch” . However, it is reported that around 50 gendarmes are stationed in the area since March 11, 2016 , thereby making it impossible that the Esu activists may have gone around the area and burnt down huts.
The next hearing of Mr. Kpwe Philip Abue is scheduled for July 12, 2016 before the High Court of Mezam in Bamenda .
The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of the above-mentioned land rights defenders, which only aim at sanctioning their legitimate peaceful human rights activities opposing land-grabbing.
Accordingly, the Observatory calls upon the Cameroon authorities to release immediately and unconditionally Messrs. Redemption Godlove, Kpwe Philip Abue, Biame Divine, Azong Cyprian and Fuh Bernard, and to put an end to the ongoing harassment, including at judicial level, against the above-mentioned community leaders.
In 2015, Mr. Baba Ahmadou Danpullo attempted to establish a land certificate on the Esu land. The Esu community leaders subsequently filed a case requesting Mr. Danpullo to prove the land ownership. Instead of providing this proof, Mr. Danpullo filed a case based on trumped-up charges of defamation against Barrister Robert Fon, the Esu community lawyer, claiming 100 million FCFA, alleging that he had paid the Governor of the North-West and other officials 50 million FCFA to own the land. These developments are part of the pattern of judicial harassment to deprive the Esu community of legal counsel. Mr. Fon is also lawyer for the Mbororo community that has been resisting abuses by Mr. Danpullo over several years .
The Observatory recalls that this wave of arbitrary arrests and detentions is part of a larger policy, which started 30 years ago when Mr. Danpullo grabbed nearly half of the Esu village, and failed to respond to dialogue attempts undertaken by the villagers through their traditional leaders. Such operations turned into a massive harassment on the local population and youth leaders of the Esu community, who had always been peacefully challenging the decisions.
Please write to the authorities of Cameroon and ask them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Redemption Godlove, Kpwe Philip Abue, Biame Divine, Azong Cyprian and Fuh Bernard;
ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the administrative and judicial level - against them as well as against the Esu community and all human rights defenders in Cameroon;
iii. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the UN General Assembly, in particular its Articles 1 and 12.2;
iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights instruments ratified by Cameroon.
· Mr. Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon, Fax +237 22 22 08 70
· Mr. Philémon Yang, Prime Minister and Chief of Government of Cameroon, Fax: +237 22 23 57 35. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Mr. Laurent Esso, Minister of Justice of Cameroon, Fax: + 237 22 23 00 05
· Mr. René Emmanuel SADI, Minister of Territorial Administration of Cameroon, Fax: + 237 22 22 37 35
· Dr. Chemuta Divine Banda, President of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, Fax: +237 22 22 60 82, E-mail: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
· Ms. Enonchong Annet, Protection Officer of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms of Cameroon, E-mail: email@example.com
· H.E. Mr. Anatole Fabien Nkou, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cameroon to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 736 21 65, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· H.E. Mr. Daniel Evina Abe’e, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 344 57 35; E-mail: email@example.com
Please also write to diplomatic representations of Cameroon in your respective countries.