Southern Cameroons: MEPs Call for Fair Trial as Hearings are Delayed
Update: 19 June 2007
Despite international calls for a free and fair trial, hearings in the case of Dr. Nfor Ngala Nfor, Vice-Chairman of the Southern Cameroons Nations Council (SCNC) and UNPO Member representative, have been delayed yet again. Following the failure of Presiding Judge Justice Julius Nchu Cheo, as well as all prosecution witnesses, to appear in Court, hearings have been postponed until 28 August 2007.
UNPO consequently remains concerned that the trial of Dr. Nfor will be plagued by the same irregularities as bail hearings which left him and other SCNC activists behind bars for more than 50 days without charge earlier this year.
In a letter addressed to Justice Nchu Julius Cheo of the Bamenda High Court, Members of the European Parliament Mr. Marco Pannella MEP and Mr. Marco Cappato MEP have expressed concern about the forthcoming trial of Dr. Nfor Ngala Nfor, Vice-Chairman of the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) and UNPO Member Representative, on 19 June 2007.
Dr. Nfor will be tried for “secessionist activities” alongside other SCNC activists, all arrested during a peaceful press conference in Bamenda on 20 January 2007.
In support of the letter, UNPO General Secretary Mr. Marino Busdachin echoed calls for increased international attention in order to ensure the trial proceeds in a manner that is free and fair, and which is compatible with internationally recognised standards of justice.
For the Kind Attention of:
H.E. Justice Nchu Julius Cheo, the High Court of Bamenda
H.E. Mr. Paul Biya, President of the
H.E. Mr. Amadou Ali, Minister of State Responsible for Justice
Chemuta Divine Banda, Chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms
H.E. Ms. Isabelle Bassong, Ambassador of the Embassy of the
Govenor Kounpa Issa
Bechem Eneke, Attorney General of
Subject: Forthcoming Trial of Dr. Nfor Ngala Nfor and other SCNC Activists
15 June 2007
During the Press Conference, Dr. Nfor Ngala Nfor, SCNC Vice-Chairman and representative to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), was presenting evidence of what he considered a “deteriorating human rights situation” in the region, detailing also efforts he had made to raise awareness of this on the international stage. Despite the entirely peaceful nature of the Press Conference, at least 15 SCNC activists, including Dr. Nfor, were arrested and beaten during the raid. Following initial dispersion, they were all eventually detained at Bamenda Central Prison.
Although bail-hearings were scheduled for 13 February 2007, the failure of local officials to appear in Court resulted in their postponement on no less than six occasions.
On 13 March 2007, bail-hearings finally took place, resulting in the release of all but one SCNC activist. Failing to sign their release order before he left however, the presiding Judge released the activists only on 14 March 2007, more than 50 days after their initial arrests.
These events alone raise significant concern over the due process afforded to members of the SCNC, as well as the conditions under which human rights defenders work in the
We are now informed that a trial has been scheduled for 19 June 2007, during which Dr. Nfor will be tried for “secessionist activities” alongside fellow members of the SCNC; Mr. Mbinglo H. Humphrey, Mr Achu Nji David, Mr. Stephen Knongso, Mr. Dzeni Augustine Shieyntum, Mr. Henry Lamnyam, Mr. Lucas Ngwa Che, Mr. Nguemu Clement Atanga, Mr. Mongo Steven, Ms. Mbi Anna Rita, and Mr. Ngiewih Asunkwan.
As this date approaches, we, the undersigned, wish to inform you that we will be following the proceedings of this trial closely, and urge Your Excellency, as the presiding Judge, to:
Ensure that all charges against the defendants are immediately clarified and substantiated;
Ensure that all defendants are given clear information about the case against them, and are afforded adequate legal council and representation during their defence;
Make it clear that any individual responsible for delaying hearings will be held accountable, be they government officials or the representatives of the SCNC; and
Do all that is within your power to ensure that the trial is conducted in a free and fair manner, with internationally recognised standards of justice applied in an open and transparent fashion, as is consistent with the obligations of the Republic of Cameroon as a member of the international community.
Marco Cappato MEP
Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee
Marco Pannella MEP
Member of the Legal Affairs Committee