News

Contra Nocendi International Condemns School Attack in Kumba, Cameroon

Contra Nocendi International Condemns School Attack in Kumba, Cameroon 

 

On Saturday 24 October 2020 gunmen stormed a school in Kumba, Cameroon (link to https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/24/gunmen-kill-at-least-six-children-in-attack-on-cameroon-school) indiscriminately killing and injuring more than a dozen children. Contra Nocendi strongly condemns this brazen attack, part of a cycle of ongoing intimidation of and violence against civilians in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest regions.  

 

Attacks, violence, intimidation and threats to schools carried out by separatists have forced thousands of schools to close, with many lying in ruins.  According to Unicef, 80% of schools were shut in in 2019, 74 destroyed and more than 600,000 children affected by the school ban.   

 

CNI is now working with local NGOs to gather more information and support local civil society.

 

Contra Nocendi International dedicates a significant portion of its work to protecting the rights of the child. We have worked with other NGOs to raise awareness for serious human rights violations that impact children including the right to education and the prohibition on making schools and children a target of an attack under international law.

 

Read more about the school crisis in Cameroon  

Cameroon Update: Clinton Awungafac Released after 1,074 Days of Unlawful Detention

Seventeen-year-old Clinton Awungafac has now finally been released after 1, 074 days of pretrial detention in Cameroon.

Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon want to express our immense joy for his release and the fact he can now return to his family.

As legal counsel, Contra Nocendi supported Clinton since July 2019, arguing for his release.[i] Clinton, arrested at just 14 years old, was never formally charged. During nearly three years of pretrial detention, his case never appeared before an examining magistrate. Until now.

In early 2020, Contra Nocendi elevated Clinton’s case with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions in Detention and Policing in Africa, after exhausting all possible domestic remedies.  On Clinton’s behalf, we secured a joint letter of appeal, signed by the Special Rapporteur along with Commissioner Remy Ngoy Lumbi, to the Government of Cameroon. On October 22, 2020, Clinton finally had his day in court. Mamfe Prison released him later that evening.

 

Clinton’s case underscores the on-going human rights issues in Cameroon that Contra Nocendi is fighting to resolve

 

  • For three years, Clinton was unlawfully detained and transferred to Mamfe prison, a detention centre several hours away from his family and legal counsel.

 

  • He was held under inhuman and degrading conditions. During the last few weeks of detention, Clinton’s health deteriorated, making his living conditions even more unbearable.

 

  • Taken into custody at just14 years old, Clinton’s arrest was in stark violation of the African Convention on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Every child accused of having infringed penal law have the right to special treatment in a manner consistent with the child’s sense of dignity and worth.[ii] A child should only be detained as a last resort, meaning years of pretrial detention of a minor without a formal charge is far beyond what is acceptable according to any legal standard or practice.

 

  • Every day of detention violated Clinton’s rights, according to regional/international human rights instruments that Cameroon’s government has committed to follow.

 

Not an Isolated Case

Clinton’s case is, unfortunately, not an isolated one. Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon call on the Government of Cameroon to devote all possible efforts to ensure that the use of pretrial detention and detention conditions meet international and regional human rights obligations.

We will continue our work on access to justice and humane detention conditions in Cameroon and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.

To receive regular updates on Contra Nocendi’s work and cases like this, please subscribe to our quarterly Newsletter.  (link)

 

[i] Contra Nocendi, 26 July 2019. Contra Nocendi providing legal aid for Cameroonian minor held in prolonged pre-trial detention. https://www.contranocendi.org/index.php/en/news-press/216-contra-nocendi-providing-legal-aid-for-cameroonian-minor-being-held-in-prolonged-pre-trial-detention

Contra Nocendi, 23rd of January 2020. Contra Nocendi calls for release of minor held in prolonged pre-trial detention in Cameroon. https://www.contranocendi.org/index.php/en/news-press/226-contra-nocendi-calls-for-release-of-minor-held-in-prolong-pre-trial-detention-in-cameroon

[ii] African Convention on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990), Article 17.

 

Contra Nocendi International supports the call on the renewal of mandate for the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi

 

(Paris, France-22 September, 2020)  Contra Nocendi International supports the call for renewal of the mandate for the United Nations Commision of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi, as expressed in a recent letter by 43 organisations, including Human Rights Watch, submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council

Since its establishment in 2016, the Commission has provided critical information on the human rights situation in the east African country. As the successor of the U.N. Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIB), it has documented systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations and abuses. Renewing the mandate will pro­­vide the best opportunity to prompt meaningful human rights progress in Burundi.

As the joint letter to the U.N. HRC highlights, the CoI remains the only independent mechanism mandated to document human rights violations and abuses -- including their extend and whether they may consitute crimes under international law, and to monitor and to publicly report on the situation in Burundi. We strongly agree that the Council has a responsibility to continue supporting victims and surviviors of violation and work to improve the human rights situation in Burundi. An end to the Commission's independent investigation could hinder the justice survivors deserve, while fostering impunity for perpetrators.

The Commission of Inquiry was created by the Human Rights Council resolution 33/24 and was mandated to investigate human rights violations and abuses committed in Burundi since civil protests and outburst of violence began in 2015, triggered by the announcement of late president Pierre Nkurunziza's run for a third term. According to a report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), more than 400,000 Burundians have fled their country, 400 to 900 have disappeared, 1,200 have been killed and thousands have been tortured and detained without trial since 2015.

The Commission determines whether any of the violations constitute international crimes, identifies alleged perpetrators and formulates recommendations with the aim to counter impunity. Following the CoI appeal in 2017, the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorised an investigation into crimes against humanity, including murder, imprisonment, torture, enforced disappearance and sexual violence in Burundi within the period of 26 April 2015 until 26 October 2017. Two days after the ICC’s announcement of its decision, Burundi became the first nation to withdraw its membership from the ICC.

At its upcoming 45th session, the Human Rights Council will decide on the renewal of the CoI mandate and the Commission’s report on Burundi will be presented. The newly elected government of Burundi -- under Évariste Ndayishimiye -- raises hopes among the international community that decades of violence and state oppression may come to an end. 

Still, Contra Nocendi believes that independent human rights scrutiny must continue.

During the recent oral presentations to the Human Rights Council in July 2020, the commission’s experts warned that “Burundi needs more than a new President to break the cycle of violence.”

Contra Nocendi marks the international day in support of victims of torture

For every victim of torture there is a person forever altered. On the international day in support of victims of torture, Contra Nocendi wish to express our support once again for survivors of torture and their right to reparations and rehabilitation.

The prohibition of torture is absolute. There are no circumstances in which it may be acceptable to subject another human being to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Where human rights instruments can differ in how some rights are to be understood or prioritized, they all agree that torture is one of the most serious violations of human dignity and therefore prohibited, always and with no exceptions. Despite this consensus, torture remains a serious issue, and it takes many forms.

Contra Nocendi Cameroon have first-hand observations of the situation in detention centres in Cameroon, where severe overcrowding has created unbearable living conditions for the inmates. We have also provided legal representation to pre-trial detainees that showed evidence of being subjected to torture. The living situation has become so poor that this in itself may amount to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment. The issue of overcrowding has become even more urgent during the covid-19 pandemic. Although action was taken to reduce the number of persons in detention, the centres are still overcrowded. There is much more to be done for the detention conditions to be humane. Contra Nocendi will continue to monitor the situation in detention and fight for humane detention conditions.

UN human rights bodies have repeatedly expressed concern over reports of violence perpetrated by the police in pretrial detention in Cameroon, including reports concerning violence against children in detention. Violence perpetrated by police during interrogations and pretrial detention should always be investigated and prosecuted, as it may amount to torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. We have yet to see a true determination to end impunity for such crimes.

Survivors of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment have a right to rehabilitation and reparations for what happened to them. The Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa adopted by the African Commission in 2002 underlines that the right to reparation from the state exists regardless if there is a successful criminal prosecution or not. Contra Nocendi contributed with our views during the consultation in preparation of the general comment no. 4: The Right to Redress for Victims of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment adopted by the African Commission in 2017. The general comment states that “Reparation includes restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction - including the right to the truth, and guarantees of nonrepetition.” This right is central for survivors to have a chance to heal and move forward.

 

Contra Nocendi calls on all countries to respect international and regional standards and fight to eradicate torture in all its forms. We call on Cameroon and all states in Africa to support and fully implement the above-mentioned guidelines to prevent torture and offer rehabilitation and compensation for the survivors.

Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon will continue our work against torture in all its forms. We remain deeply committed in our support to victims of torture and will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Detention conditions in Cameroon raise concerns of Covid-19 spread

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, Contra Nocendi wants to highlight how the situation affects prisoners in an already strained prison system in Cameroon. People in detention are completely reliant on the protection and care of the state and have limited possibilities to protect their health through social distancing and other measures. The detention centres in Cameroon are overcrowded, making the living conditions for the detainees impossible to bear under ordinary circumstances, but the spread of Covid-19 highlights the severe health risks. A presidential decree was issued on the 15th of April, granting some convicted prisoners a reduced sentence and commuting death sentences in order to facilitate a release of prisoners.i Several prisoners have reportedly been released since, which is welcomed by the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and civil society organisations alike.ii Contra Nocendi is pleased to learn about the presidential decree and the release of prisoners but remains concerned.

 

We have recently observed the current situation in the detention centres of Buea, which show that the situation requires further and increased efforts in order to improve the living conditions in the centres as well as effectively preventing a spread of Covid-19. During our visits in the detention centres in Buea, there were little evidence of any measures to curb the spread of the virus except for a bucket of water and soap placed at the entrance of police and gendarmes stations to wash their hands before entering. We further observed severe overcrowding in the Buea central prison, making the living conditions unbearable. The detainees expressed fear that the whole prison, inmates and warders alike, would quickly get infected in case someone got infected with Covid-19, since there are no preventive measures in place. Most of them said they cannot afford a face mask, and even if they could, it would be difficult to use due the heat and poor ventilation in the cells. We are deeply concerned by the information of 4 alleged deaths in the Kondengui prison in Yaounde that could be associated with Covid-19. Although these alleged cases are yet to be confirmed, we are deeply concerned by an imminent contamination in detention centres.

 

Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon strongly urge the authorities to:

· Substantially reduce overcrowding by increasing the efforts to release prisoners when possible. All persons eligible for early release in accordance with the presidential decree should be compiled on a list and promptly released. We urge the government to also include the release of detainees with minor offences.

· Take significant steps towards ending lengthy pre-trial detention, which is even more urgent considering the potential spread of Covid-19 and the severe overcrowding. The authorities should strictly apply the existing rules for bail for persons in pre-trial detention.

· Protect the health of all persons that remain in detention by introducing effective measures to prevent a potential spread of Covid-19, including enabling social distancing.

· Make sure all persons in detention have access to updated information about Covid-19 in the detention centre. Detainees have a right to be kept informed about Covid-19 and when they might have been exposed to the virus.

 

Contra Nocendi will continue to deploy and monitor the situation in the detention centres closely.

i https://www.prc.cm/en/multimedia/documents/8262-decree-n-2020-193-of-15-04-2020-sentences

ii https://www.achpr.org/pressrelease/detail?id=492

iii https://www.fiacat.org/presse/communiques-de-presse/2871-communique-desengorgement-des-prisons-au-cameroun-un-decret-presidentiel-trop-restrictif

 

Contra Nocendi’s SAR-Cov2/Covid-19 response

Contra Nocendi Cameroon and Contra Nocendi International has been working with partners and colleagues to monitor the impact of the global pandemic on our operations and that of our partners and colleagues as well as the communities we serve. Our staff is largely working remotely and are receiving regular check-ins from senior staff to make sure they are safe and healthy. We believe that the do no harm principle extends beyond just our work in the field and we have put that belief into action.

In Cameroon, we continue to monitor human rights concerns including our on-going cases. We have done so while trying to keep our staff safe and by working with authorities to make sure our conduct encourages social distancing and encourages only essential travel. We continue to look for opportunities to help were we can.

We are happy to report that as of the time of this release, none of our staff have contracted the virus. Our staff has been working from home and practicing social distancing and only making essential trips. We will continue this practice in order to support the health of our staff and all that come into contact with our staff.

We wish to wish all our followers, supporters, friends, neighbours, families and colleagues across the globe good health. We will continue to monitor the situation and look forward to returning to full operation as soon as it safe to do so for all those involved.

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