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Human Rights Watch & Amnesty International call for the release of Cameroon’s Political Prisoners

By Augustine Nyuykongi

“They should immediately and unconditionally release all those held for expressing their political views or for exercising their right to peaceful assembly, and end the campaign of repression against peaceful protesters and critics,” they stated.

The state of Cameroon has been urged by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in a joint declaration to free all political prisoners from jail.

The declaration made public today by the two human rights organizations has come one year after some militants of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, CRM, were arrested and detained, for staging a nationwide protest on September 22, 2020.

The joint statement stated that over 500 persons got arrested on that day. Many have however been released, but approximately 124 militants are yet to regain their freedom, including the spokesperson for the CRM Party, Olivier Bibou Nissack.

Professor Maurice Kamto, the CRM Party President was also kept under house arrest, with tight security, for more than two months without being charged by the state.

One year after the arrests, the militants’ defending lawyers decided to discontinue their defense of the case against the CRM militants, famously stating that “we cannot associate ourselves with arbitrariness and illegality.”

The lawyers referred to the incarcerated militants as “Paul Biya’s Political hostages.” Saying they can no longer appear before Cameroonian jurisdictions because they do not want to support “a parody of justice.”

The joint declaration also mentioned the arbitrary arrest of four members of the Civil Society Platform, Stand Up For Cameroon in September 2020. They are being held at the Douala New Bell prison, facing trial before a military court on charges of attempted conspiracy, revolution, and insurrection.

The Government of Cameroon also received criticisms for its inaction in investigating and sanctioning security forces for its violent repression of civilians during the protest, rather resulting in more violent crackdowns to subdue political opposition.

“One year after violently quashing peaceful demonstrations, Cameroonian authorities are still resorting to their old repressive tactics,” said Fabien Offner, Amnesty International’s Central Africa researcher.

“The African Union, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Economic Community of Central African States, and Cameroon’s other regional and international partners should press the government to ensure accountability for security forces’ violations and demand the immediate and unconditional release of all those arbitrarily detained, and the respect of free speech and peaceful assembly,” Fabien Offner stated.

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