Cameroon: "Inhuman" conditions, denial of justice for detainees
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||26 August 2009|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Cameroon: "Inhuman" conditions, denial of justice for detainees, 26 August 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a978400c.html [accessed 19 May 2013]|
Prison conditions are "draconian, inhuman and degrading", according to a report released 12 August by the national commission on human rights and freedoms (CNDHL), which condemns both the physical conditions and the slowness of the judicial system.
For years human rights watchdogs in and outside Cameroon have decried prison conditions in Cameroon. While there have been isolated cases when authorities tended to grave cases of illness or excessive pre-trial detention flagged by rights groups, much remains to be done, CNDHL member Eva Elangue told IRIN.
"Genuine, perceptible progress will take more funding and more political engagement," she said.
Elangue said it is important to continue putting the problem before the international community and the Cameroonian authorities.
In Cameroon as of end of 2008, more than 23,000 detainees were being held in facilities with a capacity for 16,000 people, according to CNHDL.
In addition to overcrowding, the organization cited the following as the most serious problems it found in visits to five of the country's prisons: high death rate among detainees, absence of hygiene and medical care, shortage of toilet and washing facilities, failure to separate minors from the rest of the prison population and overall dilapidation of detention areas.
Lack of food is also a problem, CNHDL says. "The food ration comes to less than 100 CFA francs (21 US cents) per prisoner per day."
Beyond physical conditions, the slowness of the legal system violates people's rights, the group says.
Some 62 percent of those in prison are detained pending trial, with some waiting for nine years, according to the report.
"The average period of time for obtaining a decision is abnormally long and in the end the delays constitute a veritable denial of justice," CNDHL says.
The rights organization also condemned arbitrary arrests and detentions by gendarmes, police and an elite army unit.
Officials with the Ministry of Justice were not available for comment on the report. In a June 2009 government publication Justice Minister Amadou Ali said that studies have shown a number of challenges including overpopulation, lack of hygiene and poor conditions "in some prisons", and said the government is rehabilitating some facilities.
In its 2008 annual human rights report, the US State Department said the high number of pre-trial detainees was due in part to "the complexity of cases, staff shortages and corruption". The report called prison conditions in Cameroon "harsh and life threatening".