News

Contra Nocendi providing legal aid for Cameroonian minor being held in prolonged pre-trial detention

Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon announced today that they are collaborating to provide pro bono legal services to a Cameroonian minor being held in prolonged pre-trial detention. The minor, whose name we are withholding for privacy reasons, was 14 at the time of their arrest in last 2017. This child must be returned to his parents and CNI and CN Cameroon intend to make sure that happens.

 

We have so far been provided no credible evidence that the minor was given access to counsel nor are we in possession of any credible evidence that the minor has been before a judge at any time during his detention.  Our on-going investigation also indicates that a writ of remand has not been issued by a competent judicial body for the detention of said minor. We are also deeply concerned about evidence of injury on the body of the minor that shows signs that the minor may have been exposed to acts of torture. Sadly, the heartbreak does not end there. Despite the minor’s injuries, we have nothing to prove that medical attention has been provided.

 

Following up on a referral to CN Cameroon, CNI’s legal team and CN Cameroon acted quickly to acquire as much documentation as possible. The initial assessment brought such concern to both teams that it was clear that we must act. A petition for a writ of habeas corpus has been filed on behalf of the minor and in respecting  the wishes of his family. CNI has also paid the filing fee for the minor.

 

We are hopeful of a swift resolution to this matter. This child deserves to be returned to their family immediately and we will fight for the child’s release.

 

Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon will make further statements on this matter as necessary.

Contra Nocendi marks Torture Victims Day

Feelings on marking Torture Victims Day for Contra Nocendi is always something that cuts across the spectrum of emotions. Working with victims, we are troubled by their suffering and the lengthy legal process that can be required to confront their abusers, yet left without words that adequately express the strength that victims show when they demand accountability so that others do not go through what they have. We have also seen security officials grow in their concern for victims of torture and have seen the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights show the human rights community true leadership by adopting guidelines on reparations for victims of torture. The first source of international human rights law on such matters.

 

The act of torture, under international law, is not permissible under any circumstance. As a jus cogens norm, there is no legally permissible excuse for the use of torture. There is no need for a lengthy argument padded by legalese to make this point. The prohibition of torture is a natural development in response to the very horrific act that is torture. It should be this cut and dry.

 

Unfortunately we still see torture as a very serious issue. Some countries do not have the international norm effectively including in their national legislation, while others do not give effect to the norm in a way that is meaningful in the everyday life of their citizens. The use of torture as a means to extract evidence during a criminal investigation does not always lead to exclusion of that evidence during criminal proceedings despite the evidence being fruit from the forbidden tree (Redress and Fair Trials have a very important new report on this: https://fairtrials.org/news/new-report-reveals-torture-evidence-still-routinely-used-around-world).

 

On Torture Victims Day, Contra Nocendi International stands up for the prohibition of torture and vows to continue its support for victims of torture. There is no place in society for the use of torture and we will keep pushing that point through advocating for its practical prohibition at every opportunity and by continuing to be a strong voice for victims of torture.

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

 

Last year we celebrated the de-criminalisation of sexual conduct between persons of the same sex in Burundi. While there is much still to be done to create an environment of equality and dignity for LGBTIQ+ persons, the decriminalisation was a step forward for SOGIE rights in Burundi. Unfortunately, 72 countries and territories around the world still criminalise sexual conduct between persons of the same sex according to the United Nations Development Programme.

This May 17th, we mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and embrace this year’s aim of promoting justice and protection for all. Contra Nocendi has engaged international human rights bodies to make clear that any discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation is contrary to international human rights law. This has included being extremely critical of the criminalisation of sexual conduct between persons of the same sex. We believe that such practices are arbitrary and in clear contradiction to international human rights law. We are unwavering in our support for SOGIE rights and have even entrenched SOGIE rights in our founding document.

While we were happy to see the decriminalisation of sexual conduct between persons of the same sex in Angola, we are still deeply concerned about the practical exercise of SOGIE rights in Africa. Far too many countries in Africa still criminalise sexual conduct between persons of the same sex and have other legislation on the books meant to discriminate LGBTIQ+ persons. Not only do such laws discriminate directly, they can also be seen as encouraging others to discriminate and view LGBTIQ+ persons as a threat. This is unacceptable and the governments of Africa must stop ignoring their obligations related to SOGIE rights.

This year also brought an amazing project called the Voices of Kenya, which provides a platform for LGBTIQ+ persons in Kenya to voice their experiences. Not only is the project a noble endeavour, it re-engages the world about the issue of discrimination against LGBTIQ+ persons ahead of an important judgement set to be handed down by Kenya’s High Court on 24 May.

As we mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia; we wish to remind all LGBTIQ+ people in Africa exposed to discrimination and harm due to their sexual orientation or gender identity that there are many people out there that recognize their right to equality and justice. CNI will always be in your corner.

World Press Freedom Day

Press freedom, or freedom of the press, is invaluable right of all persons and is vital to the practical exercise of all human rights. In many parts of the world, journalists risk their safety and sometimes pay the ultimate price in order to bring to light some of most horrific abuses of power and of human dignity.

 

According to the International Press Institute, 12 journalists have died so far in 2019. This is such startling number. Journalists should not be targets of violence, but somehow these courageous human beings continue to sacrifice in the name of press freedom.

 

Contra Nocendi International condemns all efforts to violate press freedom. In Burundi and Cameroon, press freedom continues to be a serious issue. According to Reporters without Borders, Burundi ranks 159th in the 2019 World Press Freedom index, while Cameroon is 131st. Both countries create serious concerns for the ability of journalists to operate within their borders and bring much needed objective journalism to the people of Cameroon and Burundi as well as the world. Both governments must take a clear stance in support of press freedom.

 

We are concerned with the issue of press freedom, especially during elections. With Burundi and Cameroon, both countries will be holding elections in 2020. As we noted in our submission to the African Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Information in Africa related to the Draft Guidelines on the Freedom of Information and Elections in Africa, access to information during the electoral process is vital to a free and fair election. A free and fair election is not possible without freedom of the press.

 

As we mark World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, we pause to appreciate the sacrifices of so many journalists who suffered in pursuit of press freedom, and re-iterate our unwavering support in press freedom. As we look to the elections in Cameroon and Burundi next year, it is our sincere hope that both elections are able to be observed and reported on in a manner that promotes the freedom of the press.

Contra Nocendi marks Pre-Trial Detention in Africa Day

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.

Contra Nocendi deeply concerned by attack in Buea

Contra Nocendi International is deeply concerned about an incident that occurred in Buea, Cameroon on 6 February 2019. In the early morning hours armed militants entered a neighbourhood in Buea at around 3am. They spent the next three hours firing automatic weapons into the area and burning several vehicles, including taxis and private cars. The incident, understandably, startled the residents of the neighbourhood. Approximately an hour after the militants left, security forces entered the neighbourhood and started what has been reported as mass arrests.

 

We are deeply troubled by this report and condemn the use of force and fear tactics by the armed militants. The destruction of private property, the use of automatic weapons and the timing of the incident leads us to believe that the aim of the event was to strike fear in the neighbourhood. This was done clearly without regard to the rights or safety of the people of the neighbourhood. The government of Cameroon must take steps to protect the local population from such acts of violence.

 

We are also concerned by the report of the conduct of security forces in which members of the security forces reportedly acted without regard for whether detained persons had any real link the attack the security forces were responding to. Such haphazard approaches tend to not take proper regard for the rights of the individuals in question and can lead to mistrust in the security services on the part of the local population. Many innocent civilians in the predominately English speaking regions are being caught between the violence of the non-state actors and violence of security forces. Security forces must recognize this and take the opportunity to correct their approach. Citizens should be looking to their security services for protection and not hiding from them in fear.

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