Cameroon: Harassment against human rights lawyer Felix Agbor Nkongho, aka Agbor-Balla

14/05/2020
Urgent Appeal

CMR 001 / 0520 / OBS 052
Harassment /
Restrictions to freedom of expression
Cameroon
May 14, 2020

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 about the ongoing harassment against Mr. Felix Agbor Nkongho, aka Agbor-Balla, a human rights lawyer, Vice-President of the African Bar Association (AFBA) for Central Africa, founder of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) and professor at the University of Buea. Mr. Agbor Nkongho is a prominent defender of the rights of the Anglophone minority in Cameroon who advocates for a peaceful resolution to the Anglophone crisis [1].

According to the information received, on May 6, 2020, Mr. Felix Agbor Nkongho was dismissed from his job as a lecturer in the Faculty of Law and Political Science of the State-owned University of Buea. The dismissal came after the Minister of Higher Education, Mr. Jacques Fame Ndongo, sent a letter to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buea, Mr. Horace Manga, on April 20, 2020. In the letter, the Minister demanded that the Vice-Chancellor take the necessary measures to take action against Mr. Agbor Nkongho’s breach of “the University’s code of ethics and conduct”. The Minister’s demand was related to a written exam in which Mr. Agbor Nkongho asked his students to critically engage with and discuss the Anglophone crisis.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern with regard to the restriction of Mr. Agbor Nkongho’s academic freedom, and more broadly on his freedom of expression, and considers it a form of retaliation for his legitimate human rights work.

Furthermore, the Observatory recalls that this is not an isolated incident of harassment against Mr. Felix Agbor Nkongho. On January 17, 2017, following his participation in a peaceful protest, Mr. Agbor Nkongho was arbitrarily arrested and detained on charges of “terrorism”, “treason”, “civil unrest” and “jeopardising the peace and unity of the Republic of Cameroon” by the Military Tribunal of Yaoundé under the 2014 Anti-Terrorism Law, which contravenes the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) principles on the right to a fair trial [2] and allows for Cameroonian citizens to be charged in military courts. Mr. Agbor Nkongho was finally released on August 31, 2017 through Presidential Decree and all charges against him were then dropped.

The Observatory strongly condemns the continued harassment against Mr. Abgor Nkongho, which seeks to punish him for his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities, and urges the authorities of Cameroon to put an end to any act of harassment against him and all human rights defenders in Cameroon, especially those who defend the rights of the Anglophone minority.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Cameroon to urge them to:

i. Put an end to all act of harassment against Mr. Felix Agbor Nkongho and all human rights defenders in Cameroon, including at the judicial level, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals in all circumstances;

ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the freedom of expression of all human rights defenders and human rights organisations in Cameroon and take action to ensure that no individual or organisation faces reprisals for their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular its Articles 1, 6 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.

Addresses:

• H.E Mr. Paul Biya, President of the Republic, Presidency of the Republic, Palais de l’Unité, 1000 Yaoundé, Cameroon, Fax +237 22 22 08 70
• H.E. Mr. Joseph Dion Nguté, Prime Minister and Chief Head of Government, Primature du Cameroun, 1000 Yaoundé‚ Cameroon. Fax: +237 22 23 57 65. Email: spm@spm.gov.cm
• Mr. Laurent Esso, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, 1000 Yaoundé‚ Cameroon, Fax: + 237 22 23 00 05
• Mr. Atanga Nji Paul, Minister of Territorial Administration, Fax: + 237 22 22 37 35
• Dr. Chemuta Divine Banda, Chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, Fax: +237 22 22 60 82, E-mail: cndhl@iccnet.cm / cdbanda26@yahoo.fr
• H.E. Mr. Anatole Fabien Marie Nkou, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cameroon to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Avenue de France 23, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 736 21 65, Email: mission.cameroun@bluewin.ch
• H.E. Mr. Daniel Evina Abe’e, Ambassador of Cameroon to Belgium & the European Union, Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon in Brussels, 131 av. Brugmann, 1190 (Forest), Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 344 57 35; Email: ambassade.cameroun@skynet.be; embassy@cameroon.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Cameroon in your respective countries.

***
Geneva-Paris, May 14, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal 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
◦ Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
◦ Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

[1] After the 2016 peaceful protests in the Northwest and Southwest Anglophone regions of Cameroon against the increasing discrimination faced by the Anglophone minority of the country were violently repressed by Paul Biya’s government, an ongoing conflict between the forces of the government and armed separatist groups broke out, leaving a death toll of at least 3,000 individuals and more than 700,000 displaced civilians.
[2] See African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), ‘Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa’ (Principle L).

Read more
appelobs