In a moving letter to Yaoundé’s military tribunal, Penn Terence Khan an under-trial prisoner criticized the tribunal for subjecting him to an illegal trial based on false charges, and called for better justice and equality for the English-speaking minority in Cameroon.
In a two-page letter addressed to the president and government commissioner (prosecutor) of the military tribunal, Khan said that his abduction, incarceration and trial were completely political and stood contrary to the foundational basis of what Cameroon stood for as a country.
Khan claimed in the letter that he was illegally abducted in Bamenda in January, 2017 and presented before a military tribunal in Yaoundé.
The tribunal sentenced the Cameroonian to 12 years of prison time along with a fine of €7,500. In the letter he wrote while waiting for the judgment, Khan lamented that such trials of civilians by military tribunals violate their fundamental right to appear before an impartial court for a fair trial. Since he also does not belong to the army and does not own a military weapon, Khan said in the letter, he feels like the trial has infringed upon his rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1945), UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. The trial also violates his right to a fair trial according to the Preamble of the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon.
Contra Nocendi Cameroon and Contra Nocendi International strongly support Khan’s stance in his grievances about getting subjected to a trial before the military tribunal, in a case that he felt was grossly unjust and illegal. We have already emphasized that the right to a fair trial is a fundamental human right essential in any democratic society that is governed by the rule of law.
The fact that military tribunals actually enjoy jurisdiction over civilians under domestic Cameroonian law is of grave concern to us. Military tribunals are not independent and impartial courts because they are a part of the armed forces and fall under the government’s executive branch. Being subjected to a trial under them contravenes the non-derogable right civilians have to a fair trial as per the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. There have been several cases in the past where people have been tried by military courts and given disproportionate and unjust sentences.
We reiterate our support for Khan as he was unjustly tried before a military court, which often gives disproportional penalties for offences that are defined vaguely.
Khan also alleged in his letter that the court played the role of prosecutor as well as judge in his trial, and that it provided no proof to any of the charges it slammed on him. "I am neither a terrorist nor a secessionist but the political nature of the trial makes it possible for the court to slam the 'guilty verdict' on me," he wrote. Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon will continue to monitor Penn Terence Khan's case.