Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2004 - Cameroon

MDDHL and its members subjected to continued judicial harassment and pressure54

The members of the Movement for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms (Mouvement pour la défense des droits de l'Homme et des libertés – MDDHL) were repeatedly subjected to harassment and intimidation again in 2004.

There are ten legal proceedings that involve MDDHL currently before the courts, six of which were to be examined by the Maroua courts, Grand Nord province, on 22 December 2004. All the hearings that day were adjourned until 26 January 2005.

Judicial persecution of Messrs. Blaise Yacoubou and Aminou Mohamadou55

On 30 April 2003, Messrs. Blaise Yacoubou and Aminou Mohamadou, members of the MDDHL, were arrested by the Ndoukoula district head while they were investigating the human rights situation in this region. The arrest was made in application of a circular letter dated 10 January 2003 issued by Mr. Koué Kaokamla, public Prosecutor to the Diamaré district courts in Maroua, who instructed criminal investigation officers (police judiciaire) to take in all human rights activists in his jurisdiction and turn them over to his office for questioning. Messrs. Yacoubou and Mohamadou were released but their identity papers were not returned.

In August 2003, Messrs. Yacoubou et Mohamadou were summoned to the Maroua investigations unit, ostensibly to retrieve their identity papers. But when they presented themselves the next day, they were informed that they had been sought for several months so were considered fugitives, and were immediately arrested and put in jail for two days, without food or water. Mr. Kaokamla accused them of having entered the office of the Ndoukoula district head during their mission in April, threatening him before fleeing and leaving their identity papers behind.

Messrs. Yacoubou and Mohamadou were set free on 14 August 2003 but were not able to recover their papers until 2 September 2003, when released by the Prosecutor's office.

On 3 September 2004, Messrs.Yacoubou and Mohamadou received a summons signed by Mr. Koué Kaokamla, to appear before the Maroua court on 29 September. They were both indicted for "disturbing the functioning of a public service that they had nothing to do with", a criminal violation that can be punished by a sentence of one to ten years in prison. This accusation is a new legal rendition of liability dating back to 2003 and clearly reflects a new attempt by Mr. Kaokamla to punish the two MDDHL members.

When Messrs. Yacoubou and Mohamadou appeared in court on 29 September, the hearing was postponed until 22 December 2004, then until 26 January 2005, for the Ndoukoula district head, who was transferred to another district in the meanwhile, never appeared before the court.

The Elise Monthé case56

On 10 December, a woman from Yaoundé, Mrs. Elise Monthé, entered the MDDHL premises in Maroua. After declaring that she was the wife of the association's chairman, Mr. Abdoulaye Math, she threatened to accuse him of rape if he tried to throw her out. On 11 December, she physically attacked him. Mr. Math lodged a complaint for assault, battery, and destruction of property. Mrs. Monthé likewise lodged a complaint and changed its grounds on three occasions, the last version adopted by the public Prosecutor, Mr. Kaokamla, being for "swindling". These two cases were supposed to be heard on 28 January 2004, when the hearing was adjourned until 22 December 2004, then until 26 January 2005.

The Semdi Soulaye case57

MDDHL filed three suits against Mr. Semdi Soulaye, a former member of the MDDHL executive board. Mr. Soulaye, – who had been elected coordinator of the Network of Human Rights Organisations and Associations (Réseau des organisations et des associations de défense des droits de l'Homme – ROADH), that was set up by MDDHL – seized MDDHL financial documents and apparently withdrew 2,177,000 CFA francs from the MDDHL's account at the Crédit du Sahel bank. Following these events, Mr. Soulaye was dismissed from the MDDHL permanent body. Although he was said to have left ROADH also, he kept his position for several months, until the MDDHL appointed another member to replace him.

The first suit lodged by MDDHL was for forgery and use of false documents, as well as for confiscation of all MDDHL financial documents. It was postponed several times and is to date scheduled to be heard on 26 January 2005.

The second suit was brought against Mr. Soulaye and the managing director of the Crédit du Sahel bank for forgery, use of false documents and aggravated breach of trust on 5 December 2003. It is currently being investigated, but as the end of 2004 no date has been set for the hearing.

The third suit, for usurpation of title, assault and blackmail, was initiated through a direct summons dated 5 January 2004. After the first hearing on 14 January 2004, the case was postponed until 22 December 2004, then 26 January 2005. On his side, Mr. Soulaye filed two suits against MDDHL.

The first one, for breach of trust, was lodged in December 2003 and supposed to be examined on 27 October 2004. On that date, it was postponed until 26 January 2005.

Mr. Soulaye's second suit against MDDHL was for unfair dismissal without compensation. It was filed with the Maroua court of first instance which ordered the MDDHL to pay four million CFA francs to Mr. Soulaye in April 2004. The MDDHL appealed this decision on 6 April 2004 and obtained a certificate of appeal that suspended the case on 18 April. Although the appeal had not yet been heard, a bailiff from the Maroua court came to the MDDHL headquarters on 29 November and seized MDDHL properties, including part of the electronic equipment. The material was returned on 1 December 2004.

On 6 December, the appeal was dismissed without prior thorough investigation and the MDDHL decided to take the case to the Supreme Court of Appeal (Cour de cassation).

On 15 December 2004, MDDHL properties were seized again. By end December 2004, the confiscated material had not yet been returned.

The Ahmadou Ahidjo Jamot / CAMTEL case58

The MDDHL complaint against Mr. Ahmadou Ahidjo Jamot, representative of CAMTEL, the national telecom company, for abuse of authority after the association's phone lines were cut in December 2002, has still not been investigated. Since the defendant never appeared in court, the hearing was adjourned first until 21 January 2004, then until 6 October 2004, and finally until 22 December 2004.

On that date, it was re-scheduled for 26 January 2005.

Obstruction of judicial observation by an Observatory's mission

The Observatory, together with the Swiss Human Rights League (Ligue suisse des droits de l'Homme), commissioned Mr. Patrick Herzig, a lawyer, to attend the MDDHL hearings of 22 December 2004 at the Maroua court. But on 17 December, Mr. Herzig was told he would not be able to get a visa, under the pretext that an official invitation had to be provided by the Cameroon Minister of Justice for this type of assignment. The Consulate of the Republic of Cameroon in Geneva explained that the Minister of Justice was in Nairobi, Kenya, and that he would not be able to sign an invitation letter before the deadline because of the jet lag. It is to be noticed that Mr. Herzig had deposited his visa application file in time and had been initially assured by the Consulate that the visa would be granted, respected the official schedule.

Because of this situation, the Observatory mandated Mr. Jean de Dieu Momo, an MDDHL lawyer, to defend the organisation at the hearings on 22 December 2004. For several years, Mr. Momo has been constantly harassed (surveillance, death threats, pressure on his relatives and clients, regular intrusions, burglaries in his building alone) because of his commitment to human rights in Cameroon. On 30 March 2004, for instance, fire broke out in his home in Douala. It was quickly brought under control, but was probably set on purpose. A similar incident occurred in his office a month later, on 30 April 2004, while he was in Maroua to defend Mr. Abdoulaye Math.

Pressure on members of the Cameroon House for Human Rights and ACAT-Littoral59

Members of the Christians' Action for the Abolition of Torture in Douala (Action des chrétiens contre la torture – ACAT-Littoral) and the Cameroon House for Human Rights (Maison des droits de l'Homme du Cameroun – MDHC), which groups 12 Cameroonian human rights associations, including the ACAT-Littoral and the MDDHL, received anonymous telephone calls and were constantly threatened, tailed and called in to various security offices on a regular basis.

Continued harassment of Mrs. Madeleine Afité

On 3 June 2004, Mrs. Madeleine Afité, manager of ACAT-Littoral and MDHC, was called in to the State Security office, and a report was made of the visit. She was questioned for several hours about her activities and the denunciation, by the MDHC, of the situation faced by human rights defenders in Cameroon.

On 7 June 2004, Mrs. Afité was called in again to sign the report on her interrogation. The commissioner, accompanied by two inspectors, then asked her to take them to the MDHC premises and show them around; they closely inspected the office.

Mrs. Afité, furthermore, was still subjected to repeated harassment and threats.

Attempt to abduct Mr. Sylvanus Shukila Binla

On 8 July 2004, police in plain clothes attempted to abduct Mr. Sylvanus Shukila Binla, member of the MDHC, while he was trying to hail a taxi to take him home in front of the MDHC headquarters in Douala. A taxi that had clearly been waiting for him then drove up, with two men inside who turned out to be policemen in plain clothes. They accused Mr. Shikula Binla of "tarnishing the reputation of the country" through his activities and said that they had to take him to the police station.

Thanks to the help of passers-by, Mr. Shikula Binla was able to get out of the taxi and flee.

Mr. Ndi Richard Tanto aggressed

On 11 October 2004, Mr. Ndi Richard Tanto, provincial coordinator of the Ecumenical Services for Peace (Service oecuménique pour la paix – SEP, member of the MDHC) was told off and violently beaten up by 15 policemen belonging to the Mobile intervention group (Groupement mobile d'intervention – GMI) no.6 in Bamenda, while he was observing the presidential elections in this area.

GMI members were trying to prevent the vote count, thereby infuriating the local people; Mr. Tanto, who was an observer with a valid State accreditation, tried to intervene, but then was violently hit by the policemen.

[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.]

54. See Annual Report 2003.

55. See Annual Report 2003 and urgent appeal CMR 001/0803/OBS 039.2.

56. See Annual Report 2003.

57. Idem.

58. Idem.

59. See Annual Report 2003 and Urgent Appeal CMR 001/0803/OBS 039.2.


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