Anglophone Crisis:Law Society of England urges Biya to free Ayah Paul, Agbor ‘Balla’, Fontem, others

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The Law Society of England and the Wales has written to President Paul Biya, requesting the immediate release of Justice Ayah Paul Abine, Barrister Felix Agbor Kongho, Dir Fontem Neba, Mancho BBC and all supposed activists arrested in relation to the ongoing crisis in the North West and South West region.

In the letter dated April 25, a copy of which Journal du Cameroun stumbled upon, the international lawyers’ protection organisation, also requests that government should ensure that any further proceedings and only if required and in compliance with international norms, non-custodial measures are applied.

The organisation equally demands that government should ensure that the persons who have been arrested and detained are tried by an ordinary court, not by a military tribunal, and that they can appeal any judgment rendered through an independent, impartial, judicial proceeding that is open to the public and in which all rules regarding due process are respected.

The Law Society is a professional body representing more than 166,000 lawyers in England and Wales. Its aims include upholding the independence of the legal profession, the rule of law and human rights around the world. The subject of its letter to President Biya is tittled, ‘Prolonged detention – Lawyer Nkongho Felix Agbor and others”.

Carbon Copies(CC) of the letter were sent to Laurent Esso Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals, Martin Belinga Eboutou Director of Civil Cabinet, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh Secretary General of the Presidency, Cavaye Yeguie Djibril Speaker of the National Assembly, Justice Daniel Mekobe Sone President of the Supreme Court, Philemon Yang Prime Minister, The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the British High Commission in Yaounde among other institutions.

Besides demanding the release, the letter signed by Robert Bourns, President of Law Society of England and the Wales, also acknowledges measures taken by government in addressing the grievances of Common Law lawyers. The organisation however condemned government’s disrespect for international charters on human rights and freedoms.

Some of the internatonal instrument the Society accused Cameroon of disrespecting include; African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ Principles and Guidelines on Human and People’s Rights while Countering Terrorism in Africa, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ Guidelines on the Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, UN Standard Minimum Rules for Non-Custodial Measures (The Tokyo Rules), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, acceded to by Cameroon on 27 June 1984 etc.

It is the second time the Law Society is writing to the government of Cameroon. The first letter regarding the arrest and detention of Nkongho Felix Agbor, Fontem Aforteka’A Neba, Paul Ayah Abine, and others was written on February 13.

In the first letter, they also used international and regional standards to point out the lack of jurisdiction of military tribunals over civilians, the rights to freedom of expression, the right to liberty and security of the person, and other rights which Cameroon is allegedly failing to respect.

“We are concerned about the jurisdiction of a military tribunal to rule on cases regarding civilians, and the death penalty that applies to the crimes that the detainees have been charged with. We are also concerned about their arrest and detention, about possible violations of their right to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, as well as their right to a fair trial.” The letter read in part.

Meanwhile the actvists are expected to appear before the military tribunal on May 24, following a second adjournement of their trial on April 27.

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