Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2002 - Cameroon

Pressure on ACAT continues18

Members of the Christians' Action for the Abolition of Torture (Action chrétienne pour l'abolition de la torture – ACAT) in Douala are still under surveillance and constant pressure from the authorities. Their movements are monitored by individuals who watch the front door of the organisation's premises, and the telephone is still tapped. Mrs. Madeleine Afite, Co-ordinator of ACAT-Littoral, received anonymous phone calls at home and on her cell phone in 2002. In April, she was held at the airport by a police officer who berated her for an hour and confiscated her papers to intimidate her. In the end the papers were returned to her by another policeman, who told her in mocking tones to go and lodge a complaint wherever she liked. In June, someone came into the offices on several occasions uttering death threats against those present. After ACAT had brought an action at law, the person was arrested and transferred to the Douala central prison. He was due to be questioned by an assistant public prosecutor so that the case could be presented to an examining magistrate, but he was released without being questioned or brought to court. The information published by ACAT is often systematically denied by the authorities, which continue to regard the members of this organisation as opponents and subversives.

Continuing harassment on MDDHL19

Mr. Abdoulaye Mathe, Chairman of the Movement for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms (Mouvement pour la défense des droits de l'Homme et des libertés – MDDHL), an NGO based in the Far North region, was prevented from leaving the country on 16th January 2002, while on his way to Ireland to attend an international conference on human rights defenders. He was arrested in the plane just before take-off, by members of the National Centre for External Investigations (CNRE). He was held for five hours and released after being forced to pay a fine of 70,000 CFA francs, no grounds being given. His air ticket and the documents he was carrying were confiscated. The documents concerned the MDDHL's investigations into more than 800 cases of forced disappearances, torture and summary execution by the special units of the "anti-gang" brigades of Lieutenant-Colonel Pom. These brigades, sent to the North and far North in 1999, initially to put an end to banditry in those provinces, are notorious for their frequent ill-treatment of civilians. Much of the information the MDDHL had gathered about the activities of these brigades had already been stolen, at the time of Mr. Mathe's August 2001 arrest and during two raids on the MDDHL head office in October of that year, in which the NGO's offices were completely wrecked.

In late February 2002, MDDHL photographer Mr. Aminou was released, following his abduction by Colonel Pom's men in 1999; the experience left him traumatised by the many torture sessions he had been subjected to during his detention.

The "anti-gang" brigades were dissolved in May 2002. Since then, the threat to the lives of MDDHL members has diminished. Nonetheless, defending human rights in northern Cameroon is still a high-risk activity. In particular, members of MDDHL are berated and threatened by traditional chiefs because of the NGO's increasingly active opposition to the abductions, extortion and other abuses committed by local chiefs.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

17. See Urgent Appeal BDI 001/0202/OBS 012.

18. See Annual Report 2001.

19. See Annual Report 2001.


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