Why we focus on treatment in detention in Burundi and Cameroon

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Below is the English version of this release. The French version shall be available shortly.

Contra Nocendi’s current work focuses our efforts largely on treatment in detention in Burundi and Cameroon. While this work may have some negative connotations linked to the idea of providing support for persons who are in detention centers, these connotations may mislead observers as to the purpose and need for such support.


Contra Nocendi is by no means naïve to the idea that there are legitimate grounds for detention and that there is crime in both Cameroon and Burundi. Unfortunately, like every other country on the planet, Cameroon and Burundi do face legitimate concerns with criminality. Regardless of whether a person has committed a criminal offense, that person has human rights applicable to their treatment in detention. Indeed, this is not just a question of international human rights law, but is also a legal reality expressly engaged by the respective domestic laws of Burundi and Cameroon.

In Burundi, we are working with local NGOs in the efforts to regularly visit detention centers and provide impartial and objective monitoring of the conditions at the detention center in light of international legal protections and domestic legal protections afforded to persons in detention. The local NGOs also aim to connect detainees to information about legal counsel should this need arise.

In Cameroon, our Cameroon section hosts a pro bono legal clinic in Buea that provides advice to persons in detention as well as persons who may have concerns about detention. Representatives from the Cameroon section will soon be working with local authorities on providing monitoring of local detention centers and to provide regular monitoring reports for those centers of detention. Legal counsel is provided by the Cameroon section where appropriate and persons may also be referred to local counsel where appropriate.

Even with the most heinous of crimes we must not forget that those involved, including the alleged perpetrator, are all human beings who by virtue of having a pulse have rights that must be respected. No person may be exposed to acts of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. All detainees must be afforded medical treatment to the standard of the medical system in their country. They must be able to communicate in a private and secure setting with their legal counsel. The right of a detainee to communicate with the outside world also includes maintaining contact and their relationships with their families.

It cannot be forgotten that not every person in a detention center has been convicted. Pre-trial detention is far from uncommon in Burundi and Cameroon. These detainees must be treated in a manner conducive with an accused person who has a presumption of innocence. Pre-trial detainees must also be separated from convicted detainees.