Cameroon: Arrest and arbitrary detention of five members of the association Avenir Jeune de l’Ouest (AJO)

30/04/2018
Urgent Appeal
en fr

CMR 002 / 0418 / OBS 054
Arrest /
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Cameroon
25 April 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cameroon.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the arrest and arbitrary detention of five members of the association Avenir Jeune de l’Ouest (AJO), which promotes the rights of LGBTIQ persons with HIV and sex workers in western Cameroon.

According to the information received, on April 20, 2018, at approximately 7pm, the executive director of AJO, the warden and a care worker were arrested by men in civilian clothing who were members of the territorial police as they were leaving the AJO premises. On the morning of 21 April 2018, two other care workers from AJO were arrested at their respective places of residence. No arrest warrant was produced during these arrests. The five members of AJO were taken to Dschang central police station where they are still detained in a single cell with neither sanitary facilities nor beds. Despite their serious medical conditions, the prisoners have not been seen by a doctor.

On April 23 and 24, 2018, the five members of AJO were questioned by the Dschang territorial security officers who informed them of charges of “homosexuality” brought against them under article 347-1 of the Cameroon Penal Code. They are facing up to five years in prison and a fine of 200,000 CFA Francs (around 300 Euros). Those accused of homosexuality Cameroon are regularly subjected to an anal examination which is a form of cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment which can be tantamount to torture. During their interrogation, the police officers told the members of AJO that they had been “on their trail for some time”.

The five members of AJO did not have access to their lawyers until 24 April 2018. In addition, the territorial security officers made false statements to their lawyers, claiming that the AJO members had only been in custody since 22 April 2018.

The Observatory recalls that in September 2017, the members of AJO received threats from unidentified individuals who had daubed insults on the walls of the AJO offices. During the same period, the executive director of AJO had received death threats over the telephone from an anonymous caller. Following these threats, a complaint was filed against unknown persons; the police authorities failed to follow up the matter.

The Observatory strongly condemns the judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of the five members of AJO, who seem to have been targeted and punished for their peaceful and legitimate activities in defence of human rights and of the rights of LGBTIQ persons specifically, against a backdrop of intense discrimination and criminalisation of such persons. The Observatory is particularly concerned as threats and attacks against the physical integrity of LGBTIQ rights defenders in Cameroon have in recent years reached alarming proportions in a climate of almost complete impunity [1].

The Observatory calls on the Cameroonian authorities to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the five members of AJO under all circumstances, to ensure their immediate and unconditional release and to guarantee that their right to a fair trial for all of the charges made against them is respected.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Cameroonian authorities and ask them to:

i. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the five members of AJO and of all human rights defenders inCameroon under all circumstances;

ii. Proceed to the immediate and unconditional release of the five members of AJO and all human rights defenders detained in Cameroon;

iii. End all forms of harassment, including judicial harassment, against the five members of AJOand all human rights defenders inCameroon;

iv. Ensure that all judicial proceedings brought against the five members of AJO are conducted in accordance with the right to a fair trial;

v. Conform with the provisions of the Declaration on human rights defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1998, and specificallyarticles 1, 5 (b) and 12.2;

vi. Conform with the provisions of the Universal declaration of human rights and the regional and international human rights instruments ratified by Cameroon.

Addresses:

 Mr Paul Biya, President of the Republic, Presidency of the Republic, Palais de l’Unité, 1 000 Yaoundé Cameroon, Fax (+ 237) 222 22 08 70
 Mr Philémon Yang, Prime Minister, Tel.: (+237) 222 23 92 54 / 222 23 57 60, Fax: (+237) 222 23 57 65, Email: spm@spm.gov.cm
 Mr Laurent Esso, Minister of State, Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals, Tel.: (+ 237) 22 23 00 05
 Mr Joseph Beti Assomo, Minister Delegate at the Presidency of the Republic, in charge of defence, Tel.: (+ 237) 222 22 15 24; Fax (+ 237) 222 23 59 71
 Dr Chemuta Divine Banda, Chairperson of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms of Cameroon (NCHRF):(+237) 677 70 91 84/ 222 22 61 17, E-mail: cndhl@iccnet.cm / cdbanda26@yahoo.fr
 H.E. Mr. Anatole Fabien Marie Nkou, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cameroon in Genève, Avenue de France 23, 1202 Genève, Suisse. Fax: + 41 22 736 21 65, Email: mission.Cameroon@bluewin.ch
 H.E. Mr Daniel Evina Abe’e, Ambassador of Cameroon to Belgium and the European Union, 131 av. Brugmann, 1190 (Forest), Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 344 57 35; Email: ambassade.Cameroon@skynet.be; embassy@cameroon.be
Please also write to the diplomatic missions of Cameroon in your respective countries.

***
Geneva – Paris,25 April 2018

Kindly inform the Observatory of any action taken quoting the appeal code in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory,call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Teland faxOMCT: +41 228094939 /4122809 4929
· Teland faxFIDH:331 43552518 /33143 551880

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