NGOs accused of spreading false and "sensationalist" information

FIDH and ACAT Littoral joint Press release following the examination of Cameroon by the UN Committee against Torture

21/11/2003
Urgent Appeal
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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and ACAT Littoral observed the session of the UN Committee against Torture, on the occasion of the examination of the third periodic report of the government of Cameroon.

While the organizations welcome the Final Observations and Recommendations by the Committee, they express their disagreement and disappointment with the information submitted by the Cameroon’s government to the Committee. They also deplore the attitude of the Government toward the civil society, the latter being accused of providing false information to the Committee, in order of spreading "sensationalist" information.

The Government gave a picture of the Country which is dramatically different from the situation that the FIDH had the occasion to observe thanks to its last enquiry mission to Cameroon, as reported in its last report on the country: "Cameroun, la torture: une réalité "banale", une impunité systématique" . The Government denied almost all the concerns of the FIDH and the ACAT Littoral in relation to the practice of torture in Cameroon, and particularly the following matters of concern:

1. The Government denied any problems as far as the independence of the judiciary system is concerned. They also affirmed that the cases of corruption are isolated and that the Government is actively fighting against it. The FIDH and ACAT are particularly concerned about these affirmations, since corruption and lack of independence of the judiciary leave in impunity the majority of persons responsible of torture. The Organizations shared the opinion of the Committee, affirming that the victims and their relatives are frequently frightened and consequently they do not dare to denounce the authors of torture.

2. The FIDH and ACAT Littoral share the concerns of the Committee, as far as the terrible health conditions and degrading treatments suffered by hundreds of detainees in the Country. The Organisations deplore that the Government denied the number of deceased prisoners, particularly at the Douala detention centre. They hope that the Government, in compliance with the Committee recommendation, will immediately open an independent inquiry on this matter. The Organisations also consider that the lack of an efficient mechanisms of supervision of the detention facilities can not be justified by "budgetary constraints", as the Government has being pretending. The Organizations warmly welcomed the recommendation of the Committee, asking to the Government to allow the visit of the detention centres by NGOs.

3. The Organizations share the profound concern of the Committee, as far as the long periods of police custody which are practiced and apparently legal under the Cameroon’s law, in particular during the states of emergency. The organizations recall that the prohibition of practicing torture, degrading or inhuman treatment, is an inderogable right, which can not therefore be suspended during a state of emergency.

4. The Government assured that they are efficiently fighting against the "illegal" customary "judiciary system" of the "Lamidos" who extensively practice torture. In contrast with these affirmations, during its enquiry mission, the FIDH observed that in fact no action is practically taken to prevent the "Lamidos" of carrying on their practices. The Organizations welcomed the Recommendation of the Committee on this matter requesting detailed information on the sanctions and other measures taken by the Government against the illegal practices of the "Lamidos".

5. The Organizations deplored that the Government exploited the "time constraints" to avoid giving any explanation concerning different cases of persons allegedly tortured and which were mentioned by the experts during the session. Furthermore, the Government accused different NGOs of giving false information to UN Special Rapporteurs, on cases of torture endured particularly by human rights defenders. The Government denied any act of torture against these persons qualified as "trouble makers".

6. In relation to the well known case of "the 9 of Bepanda", where a number still undetermined of people were allegedly killed by the "Commandement Opérationnel" while detained, the Government pretended that the persons concerned probably evaded from the detention centre. They also affirmed that this case was plotted by the press, the Church and other "groups" and that persons pretending to be victims’ family members tried to earn money by this case. "It is an outrage to the families of the victims", said Madeleine Afite of the ACAT Littoral.

The FIDH and the ACAT Littoral call the authorities to implement urgently the recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture and to respect and guarantee freedom of action of human rights defenders.

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