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Contra Nocendi Submits Views in Support of Decriminalization of Petty Offenses in Africa

Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon have submitted their collective views on the decriminalization of petty offenses in Africa, to the Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions in Detention and Policing in Africa. The views were in response to the Special Rapporteur’s Zero Draft of the Guidelines, which is to be presented to the African Commission for approval. Overall, we were impressed with what we found to be a progressive and courageous stance of the Zero Draft.

 

Hence, our letter to the Special Rapporteur was generally supportive of the Zero Draft. We praised the recognition of LGBTIQ persons as vulnerable persons that can be marginalized by petty offenses. We further agreed with calls to decriminalize sexual conduct between partners of the same sex, and re-asserted our view that such criminalization is absurd and contrary to international human rights law, and as such our continuing support for SOGIE rights.

 

Our views expressed support for States to seek alternatives to arrest and detention of children, and that appropriate considerations should be undertaken prior to arrest and detention whenever possible. This includes making sure that the best interest of the child is a primary consideration. We also urged States to recognize that acknowledging and respecting the rights of children in situations of potential arrest and detention, can help combat juvenile recidivism and foster an atmosphere of deeper respect and cooperation between juveniles and law enforcement agencies.

 

We wish to thank the Special Rapporteur for making the Zero Draft available and the opportunity to express our views, and those of our partners and the people we support in Cameroon and Burundi. Contra Nocendi stands firmly in support of the decriminalization of petty offenses in Africa.

Tunisia’s African Court declaration sets example for Burundi and Cameroon

Recently the government of Tunisia deposited an Article 34(6) declaration, which grants the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights access to individual cases. Tunisia should be applauded for its bold move in taking such a crucial step in the promotion of human rights in the country. Burundi and Cameroon should follow this example and solidify their commitment to advancing human rights protections in their respective countries, by depositing similar Article 34(6) declarations.

An Article 34(6) declaration is a binding statement on the part of a State Party to Protocol on the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which grants the Court jurisdiction to hear individual complaints against the declaring state. Article 34(6) refers to the provision of the Protocol regarding the Court’s jurisdiction over individual cases brought against a State Party. To their credit, the governments of Burundi and Cameroon have signed and ratified the Protocol. We do commend both governments for this important step. However, going further with an Article 34(6) declaration would very clearly illustrate their intent and commitment to promoting the respect for the human rights protections, accorded to their respective citizens.

Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon look forward to the day where every person on the African continent will have the right to bring a complaint to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights for redress. That day is certainly on the horizon. When States embrace the Court as an important tool in their arsenal to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of their people, these states show that they take their human rights obligations seriously. Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon call on the governments of Burundi and Cameroon to deposit Article 34(6) declarations and show that the human rights of their people matter.  

Pretrial Detention in Africa Day: Conditions of Pretrial Detention in Cameroon

Today April 25 marks the occasion of Pretrial Detention in Africa Day, and we at Contra Nocendi Cameroon are seizing the opportunity to take stock of the situation of pretrial detention in Cameroon. While we recognise the Cameroonian government’s efforts to ensure fair and proportionate pretrial detention conditions, we still find some cause for concern. Section 119 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC)allows for a maximum period of 48 hours renewable once or twice for an initial detention of a suspect. While we find the 48 hours’ period reasonable, the provision for further extensions by the judicial police and state counsel falls short of the requirement of judicial review as per Article 9(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as these requests are simply brought before a judge. Further, we find the provision for remand in custody by the examining magistrate for a period of six months renewable once or twice for misdemeanours or felonies (under Section 218 of the CPC), to be in contravention of the requirements for prompt trial as per the ICCPR. Similarly, we find the provision of Section 11 of the 2014 anti-terrorism law, which allows 15 days of detention renewable without limitation and without judicial guarantee for extension, as arbitrary and against the spirit of the ICCPR.

We particularly highlight the countless cases of mass arrests and detentions carried out during recent uprisings in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon under the pretext of the said anti-terrorism law, where more than 70 persons were held for periods extending over three months, some of whom continue to be detained without charges. Prominent among these is the detention of the Deputy Advocate General of the Supreme court Paul Ayah who has been detained since January 2017with no formal charges brought against him.

Contra Nocendi urges the government to ensure that persons under pretrial detention are treated with dignity and respect, and are accorded all rights in accordance with the right to presumption of innocence.

We also urge the government to ensure better conditions for detention. We note as per the Minister of Justice’s December 2016 report, the growing overpopulation of prisons in the Far North region as a result of the disproportionate arrest and detention without trial linked to the fight against Boko Haram, the degrading and inhumane conditions in the said prisons, and the corruption in Cameroon prisons that cause less privileged detainees who cannot afford bribes to endure harsher conditions comprising of deplorable unhygienic conditions and the lack of proper sleeping space.We also refer to recent reports and images surfacing of the deplorable conditions in the Yaounde Kondengui prison. We salute the government’s efforts in the construction of new detention cells in places like Maroua and urge them to do more.

Finally, we urge the government of Cameroon to take proper steps to guarantee better treatment and conditions for pretrial detainees and to separate them from persons serving prison terms in accordance with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

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