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.
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[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.