As we mark Pre-trial Detention in Africa Day this year, we are mindful of the fact that arbitrary pre-trial detention is still a serious problem around the globe and in Africa. Our work with Contra Nocendi Cameroon has shown serious concerns about arbitrary detention, especially in the Southwest and Northwest regions. The issue of arbitrary and prolonged pre-trial detention in the Southwest and Northwest regions is of particular concern to us.
The use of pre-trial detention must take into account the rights of a person to a speedy trial and the right to not be arbitrarily detained. It must also be remembered that people held on pre-trial detention are being deprived of their liberty without being convicted of a crime. While there can be lawful pre-trial detentions, the prolonged and arbitrary detentions we have witnessed in Cameroon is truly unacceptable.
Contra Nocendi Cameroon successfully represented a man who had been held in pre-trial detention for over two years without a trial. This was despite the fact that had he been convicted of the crime he was alleged to have committed, the maximum sentence is one year. Unfortunately for far too many people in Cameroon, this story is not a outlier, but instead, it is an example of the suffering of far too many.
On this Pre-Trial Detention in Africa Day, we call on the authorities of Cameroon to respect the right to a speedy trial and the right to not be held in detention arbitrarily. These rights are enshrined in human rights and in Cameroonian domestic law. It is time to stop the needless suffering of far too many Cameroonians.