Cameroon: Arbitrary arrest of and judicial harassment against Mr. Nasako Besingi and four SEFE collaborators

29/11/2012
Urgent Appeal

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

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary arrest of and judicial harassment against Mr. Nasako Besingi, Director of the NGO Struggle to Economize Future Environment (SEFE), a local environmental organisation based in Mundemba, Ndian division, Southwest Cameroon, and four of his collaborators, Ms. Ekpoh Theresia Malingo, Mr. Isele Gabriel Ngoe, Mr. Mosongo Lawrence Namaso and Mr. Nwete Jongele.

According to the information received, in the morning of November 14, 2012, over 15 heavily armed Gendarme officers led by Brigade Commandant Luc Evoundou raided the premises of SEFE in Mundemba, where over 50 members of the local population had come to get T-shirts that were prepared for a peaceful campaign against the company Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC), a local subsidiary of the New York based company HERAKLES Farms, and its establishment of a controversial large-scale palm oil plantation on 73,000 hectares in the area [1]. On this same day, the Governor of the southwest region from Buea was visiting Mundemba to install the local government official and the local population wanted to use this occasion to wear the T-shirts as a means to peacefully voice their rejection of the oil palm plantation project to the authorities.

Mr. Nasako Besingi was then arrested without warrant along with four of his collaborators, Ms. Ekpoh Theresia Malingo, Mr. Isele Gabriel Ngoe, Mr. Mosongo Lawrence Namaso and Mr. Nwete Jongele. They were forced into a pick up vehicle belonging to the department of forestry and wildlife protection and whisked off for detention at the Gendarmerie brigade in Mundemba. The officers also seized a large consignment of the campaign T-shirts, a camera and the mobile telephone of Mr. Besingi. It was further reported that some local women were forcefully undressed by the gendarmes who removed their campaign T-shirts in public, leaving them partially naked with only their breast wears.

Mr. Nasako Besingi, Ms. Ekpoh Theresia Malingo, Mr. Isele Gabriel Ngoe, Mr. Mosongo Lawrence Namaso and Mr. Nwete Jongele were detained incommunicado for 24 hours. While in detention, no charges were brought against them. Visitors who came to visit them with food were turned away by the Gendarmes and were only allowed the next day. The commandant of the gendarmerie would have added that Mr. Besingi was not allowed to communicate. They were detained in dirty and stinking cells that were over crowded with over 12 detainees who had no beds to sleep on or chairs to sit on, with no lights, poor ventilation and no toilets.

On November 17, 2012, the State counsel for Mundemba visited Mr. Nasako Besingi, Ms. Ekpoh Theresia Malingo, Mr. Isele Gabriel Ngoe, Mr. Mosongo Lawrence Namaso and Mr. Nwete Jongele and asked the gendarmes to bring them to the legal department, where they arrived at 1 pm. The defenders were then released on bail at 5.30 pm on a recognizance of 750,000 FCFCA (about 1,140 EUR). Although no charges have been brought against them yet, they were requested to appear before the legal department on December 4, 2012.

The Observatory strongly condemns these arrests and the judicial harassment of Mr. Nasako Besingi, Ms. Ekpoh Theresia Malingo, Mr. Isele Gabriel Ngoe, Mr. Mosongo Lawrence Namaso and Mr. Nwete Jongele, as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning SEFE peaceful human rights activities. In particular, SEFE is representing the indigenous population in the public litigation that has been brought to court since August 2011 against the SGSOC -Cameroon - HERAKLES Farms USA project that would lead to massive deforestation and threaten the livelihoods of residents in an area home to vital biodiversity.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Cameroon and ask them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Nasako Besingi, Ms. Ekpoh Theresia Malingo, Mr. Isele Gabriel Ngoe, Mr. Mosongo Lawrence Namaso and Mr. Nwete Jongele as well as all human rights defenders in Cameroon;

ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against them as well as against all human rights defenders in Cameroon;

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:
- article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,
- and article 12.2 which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights instruments ratified by Cameroon.

Addresses:

• Mr. Paul Biya, President of the Republic, Presidency of the Republic, Palais de l’Unité, 1000 Yaoundé, Cameroon, Fax +237 22 22 08 70
• Mr. Philémon Yang, Prime Minister and Chief of Government, Primature du Cameroun, 1000 Yaoundé‚ Cameroon. Fax: +237 22 23 57 35. 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, President of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, Fax: +237 22 22 60 82, E-mail: cndhl@iccnet.cm / cdbanda26@yahoo.fr
• Ms. Enonchong Annet, Protection Officer of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, Email: annet_mbeng@yahoo.com
• H.E. Jean Simplice Ndjemba Endezoumou, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cameroon to the United Nations Office in Geneva, rue du Nant 6, 1207 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 736 21 65, Email: mission.cameroun@bluewin.ch
• 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

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

***
Geneva-Paris, November 29, 2012

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· Email: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / 01 43 55 18 80

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