Cameroon: Ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Musa Usman Ndamba

15/03/2018
Urgent Appeal

New information
CMR 002 / 0613 / OBS 049.1

Judicial harassment
Cameroon
March 15, 2018

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Musa Usman Ndamba, National Vice President of the Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association (MBOSCUDA) [1].

According to the information received, on February 23, 2018, the trial against Mr. Musa Usman Ndamba was resumed for the 57th time since its opening in May 2013. The plaintiff 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, was not present at the hearing and was represented by Mr. Sama Francis Asanga, a senior official of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDF), close family member of the party leader Mr John Fru Ndi and former President of the Cameroon Bar Association. On March 2, 2018,the Bamenda Court of First Instance presided by Magistrate Babila Tibet adjourned the next hearing to March 16, 2018.

Mr. Ndamba has been accused of, “being a party in a judicial proceeding on oath and making false declarations”, “making a false report against Baba Ahmadou Danpullo liable to lead to his prosecution” and “injuring the reputation of Baba Ahmadou Danpullo by imputation of unprovable facts” under Section 305(1) of the Penal Code. These offenses are punishable by up to three years of prison and a fine.

Mr. Ndamba’s lawyers have reported several irregularities in the proceedings. In particular, the defender was never officially served with a summons. Moreover, the alleged defamatory statements contained in the affidavit are not signed by the defender but by another individual named Mr. Musa Adamu. According to the plaintiff, Mr. Ndamba is the author of these statements, and he intentionally changed his name in order to escape prosecution. However, Mr. Ndamba was able to provide evidence that he had never changed his name, in the form of an expired identity card dated July 20, 2000. In addition, the lawyer who wrote the affidavit for Mr. Musa Adamu told the prosecutors that he had never met Mr. Musa Usman Ndamba and he was not the one who signed the affidavit.

The Observatory fears that the ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Ndamba comes in as a retaliation to his human rights activities, in particular as MBOSCUDA’s National Vice President. Moreover, these acts of harassment are not isolated, as the Observatory reported several cases of judicial harassment against leaders of civil society organisations denouncing the government’s corruption and opposing land grabbing in Cameroon. Many of these acts are linked to cases of land acquisition by Mr. Baba Ahmadou Danpullo [2].

The Observatory expresses its deepest concerns about those acts of harassment, and fears that they have increased after MBOSCUDA and its members submitted in early May 2013 a report in the framework of the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Cameroon in Geneva, outlining the various obstacles faced by the Mbororo community [3].

The Observatory strongly condemns these acts, and urges Cameroonian authorities to stop all forms of judicial harassment against Mr. Ndamba and other human rights defenders in Cameroon.

The Observatory further urges the Cameroon authorities to ensure that, until all charges are dropped, all judicial proceedings are carried out in full compliance with his right to a fair trial, as protected under international law.

Background information:

On May 10, 2013, Mr. Musa Usman Ndamba was summoned to appear before the Court of First Instance in Bamenda, North Western Cameroon, following a complaint brought by Mr. Baba Ahmadou Danpullo for “propagating false information liable to injure public authorities”, “being a party in a judicial proceeding on oath and making false declarations”, “making a false report against Baba Ahmadou Danpullo liable to lead to his prosecution” and “injuring the reputation of Baba Ahmadou Danpullo by imputation of unprovable facts”.

At the hearing, Mr. Ndamba refuted all the allegations and pleaded not guilty. Mr. Ndamba was bailed, pending another hearing scheduled for May 27, 2013. On that day, as the landowner failed to appear in court, the matter was adjourned to June 28, 2013, and the judge warned that he would award costs against the landowner should he fail again to attend court. Subsequently, in May 2014 the court dismissed the charges against Mr. Ndamba for lack of a diligent prosecution.

On July 29, 2016, Mr. Baba Ahmadou Danpulloaccused M. Ndamba of “propagation of false information, false oath, false report and defamation of character” based on the same affidavit and evidence as the case in 2013. Subsequently, the trial was adjourned several times in absence of the plaintiff.

On December 18, 2017, the trial of Mr. Ndamba was adjourned for the fifty-fifth time.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Cameroon asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Musa Usman Ndamba, as well as of all MBOSCUDA members and all human rights defenders in Cameroon;
ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against of Mr. Musa Usman Ndamba, as well as of all MBOSCUDA members and all human rights defenders in Cameroon;
iii. Until all charges are dropped, ensure that all judicial proceedings against Mr. Musa Usman Ndamba are carried out in full compliance with his right to a fair trial, as protected under international law;
iv. Fully implement the recommendation of the Inter-Ministerial Commission of Investigation (The Jani Commission) on the abuses by the landowner mentioned above, ordered by the President of Cameroon and submitted to the Office of the Prime Minister since 2004, for action [4];
v. 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 and 12.2. ;
vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights instruments ratified by Cameroon and article 45 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon, whereby “duly approved or ratified treaties and international agreements shall, following their publication, override national laws, provided the other party implements the said treaty or agreement”.

Addresses:

His Excellency 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. Philémon Yang, 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. René Emmanuel Sadi, 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 diplomatic representations of Cameroon in your respective countries.

***
Geneva-Paris, March 1, 2018

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 the FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene 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 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

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