Category Archives: Press

Desensitisation of the Civilians Experience of Conflict

Tensions in the Northwest and Southwest regions regions of Cameroon have given rise to an armed conflict between Non-State Armed Groups (NSAG) and State Defence and Security Forces (SDSF). However, many innocent civilians have been caught in their crossfire, leading to multiple Human Rights violations.

The infliction of pain or suffering upon any human being is abhorrent. As an organisation dedicated to upholding and enforcing Human Rights, we at Contra Nocendi view the suffering of any individual as such, no matter which side of a conflict their views or actions may fall. As active human rights advocates in Cameroon our team have fallen witness to the destruction and suffering the current conflict between NSAG’s and SDSF’s has created within the region. A notable observation has been the arbitrary arrest and detention of many civilians. Many of whom have been arrested on baseless charges. As the number of those who have been unlawfully detained rises, it has become apparent that such arbitrary detention is quickly becoming the governments preferred method of exercising its power and control over not just the NSAG’s, but also the civilian population. The Human Rights Watch has outlined several reported abuses committed by the Governments forces. Including the violent interrogation of civilians and community leaders under the guise of collecting information regarding NSAG groups. Additionally, many have reported instances of looting, that resulted in the deaths of civilians. Each of these acts are blatant displays of their disregard of Human Rights and go against several laws in place to protect civilians from such acts of aggression. Specific examples include the violation of Articles 3, 5 and 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The reasons behind such acts are open to speculation, however, the impact of the governments tactic upon the local community is clear as is the impact of the violence committed by said NSAG’s.

Fear and insecurity continue to grow rife in the local community, as instances of violence continue to permeate the region. There have been multiple reports of the exchange of gun fire between NSAG’s and SDSF’s. Such exchanges have resulted in the grievous bodily harm and deaths of civilians. Additionally, the Human Rights Watch has released a detailed report on the rise of attacks on schools, marking them as acts of terrorism (B). A tragic early example of these attacks includes the killing of seven children during a raid on a school in Kumba in October 2020. With a more recent attacks having been confirmed earlier this year, during which, acts of physical and verbal assault were inflicted upon children on their way to school. The attacks on schools in particular are believed to be a prominent method used by the NSAGs, following their declaration that there will be no education in the regions until the conflict has been resolved. To further enforce their decision many schools have been burned. Articles focusing on these school attacks have been linked below as to provide a greater insight into the impact of such attacks on the children and local community (C).

Social consequences

Like many of the incidents that have been observed in the Southwest region, the impact of the violence will have a lasting impact, as is evidenced by the closure of businesses and schools following such attacks. This disruption to community life has had an undeniable impact on social and economic relations and may be argued to be one of the biggest threats the conflict imposes. This instability builds distrust not only in the local authorities that are meant to support the local communities, but also in the durability of human rights protections for those in the region.

As businesses are forced to close in the days following the attacks, the economic constraint of the conflict is tangible. Civilians are acutely aware of the threat to their livelihood, and it appears to be having a particular effect on familial relations. Multiple cases of abandonment have been reported. All of which share a common theme, men are abandoning their families and leaving the region in search of better job prospects and stability. Such cases of abandonment are also argued to be due to the increasing numbers of arbitrary arrests, as many men fear detainment.

While we commend the efforts of the government to defend schools from attacks, such as stationing soldiers in schools, we believe more effort is needed, as our actors on the ground have noted a worrying trend indicating a rise in gender-based violence in the region. Such acts of aggression used as means of control and dominance, are commonly committed by both sides within the conflict. This is displayed by instances of looting, the burning of houses and villages, and rape.

Desensitisation

Wider social responses to these attacks and arbitrary detentions, such as those propagated by media outlets, tend to focus on the socio-political causes of such Human Rights violations. Leaving the impacts of these violations on local communities to be relegated/disregarded in such a way that they may be viewed as tragic yet ‘inevitable’ casualties of conflict. One may argue the lack of media focus on the human impact of this conflict to be a clear indication of a desensitised world view, both within wider media and general social discourses, of the inhumane treatment of civilians during times of conflict.

While we acknowledge and greatly appreciate the response and dedication shown by fellow NGOs and Human Rights groups working within the region. As an organisation that prides itself on advocating for those with little means to do so for themselves, we feel it is our responsibility to highlight the severe impact this conflict is having on local communities, not just the socio-political climate in which it is taking place.

The atrocities committed upon civilians cannot be ignored if we are to truly advocate for human rights. For while it is indeed pragmatic and important to discuss the socio-political conditions which have allowed for such heinous acts to occur; so that one may endeavour to prevent further tragedies. Allowing these human rights violations to go unrecognised within wider discourses undermines the importance of these rights and the sanctity of the lives of whom they were established to protect. Furthermore, although the civilians effected may not hold the political significance of that of a politician, regarding the enforcement of Human Rights. It is the civilian population who must endure these violations. Including children who can no longer walk to school without fear of physical, mental, or sexual assault; acts that are committed by individuals who wish to enforce their own political beliefs. Moreover, while there is a strong need for the discussion of the politics concerning human rights and their enforcement. We argue the discussion of these political aspects must not lead to the disregard of the impact of such violations suffered by civilians. But rather, such discussions should be had in conjunction with those outlining the impact of Human Rights violations.

References:

  1. Human Rights Watch World Report (2022) Cameroon: Events of 2021. Available at: World Report 2022: Cameroon | Human Rights Watch (hrw.org)
  2. Human Rights Watch World Report (2021) Cameroon: Events of 2020. Available at: World Report 2021: Cameroon | Human Rights Watch (hrw.org)
  3. AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES (Dec, 2021) Separatists’ attacks in Cameroon ‘devastating’ for education: HRW. Available at: Separatists’ attacks in Cameroon ‘devastating’ for education: HRW | Education News | Al Jazeera

CNI participates in Expert Panel on Privacy and Security in Human Rights

On 12 February 2022, Contra Nocendi International’s Executive Director, Matt Davis, participated in an expert panel on privacy and security concerns for human rights documenters hosted by PILPG, the Public International Law and Policy Group, the global pro-bono law firm that provides free legal assistance to parties engaged in peace negotiations and conflict resolution, and the law firm, Orick. The panel included leading experts in the field of digital human rights documentation and digital privacy, an emerging issue among human rights advocates and professionals, worldwide.

Documenters of human rights abuses have an acute concern when it comes to digital privacy and security. First, the documentation the collect needs to be reliable in order to report on it or raise concerns to human rights bodies. This means that steps must be taken to protect collected data. Second, those who collect and store documentation, whether its human rights related or not, have legal obligations on how the handle that documentation and the personal privacy of people who might be accounted for in that documentation. The issue of victim, witness and documenter security is paramount as well. The way in which documenting is conducted and how the information is collected impacts the safety of all people involved.

Matt spoke about the lengths to which CNI goes to in order to protect the privacy of the persons included in our documenting efforts. He also spoke about the importance CNI places in personal privacy and data protection in our everyday operations. Additionally, Matt spoke about the importance of protecting those who speak to Contra Nocendi as well as our own monitors and partners that support monitoring efforts. As a human rights organisation it is important that we place a premium on digital privacy and safety. Our work in Cameroon includes taking steps to protect the personal information of victims and taking steps to protect our own staff. Our team in Cameroon is also trusted to keep the identity of certain victims and contact anonymous. We take this trust seriously.

Ensuring protection of human rights and privacy in the digital age is an increasingly important topic. As the world becomes more and more digital, there is a greater need for our rights to be respected both on and offline. Data protection and privacy issues, digital identity, the use of surveillance technologies, and online violence and harassment are areas of particular concern, according to the United Nations Hub for Human Rights and DigitalTechnology.

Contra Nocendi was honored by the invitation be represented on such an important panel. We wish to thank PILPG and Orick once again for the opportunity to participate and the very useful and stimulating dialogue during the event

CNI expresses concern regarding an attack in Ekondo-Titi

On Wednesday March 2nd 2022, around 11 AM the convoy hit improvised explosive devise apparently planted by Non-State Armed Groups operating in Ekondo-Titi, Ndian Division, South West region. Unfortunately, all 5 identified victims did not survive the blast. Contra Nocendi is concerned by this attack and wishes to extend it condolences to the loved ones of the victims and their communities. Sadly, this attack fits a pattern of behaviour that undermines the right to life in the Southwest region.

Our staff in Cameroon has gathered information that shows that the convoy was carrying administrative and municipal representatives that were on an economic tour within the Ekondo-Titi sub-division. Sadly, when the vehicle transporting them tripped an improvised explosive device around Bekora on the outskirts of Ekondo-Titi. As the situation in fluid, we are still working to confirm additional details.

While there has been no official reaction from administrative authorities, our team has received reports from local sources that suggests that the military launched an immediate search for NSAGs in Ekondo-Titi. We urge the military to respect all international human rights and international humanitarian law obligations including taking all necessary steps to protect the civil population from any harm resulting in their operation.

Contra Nocendi continues to monitor the situation in Ekondo-Titi. We remind all parties to the on-going conflict that de jure and de facto organs of the state as well as non-state actors have an obligation to respect the right to life and all human rights protections afforded to the people of Cameroon under international human rights law and Cameroonian domestic law.

CNI is looking for a Jr Advocacy Associate (volunteer)

Contra Nocendi International is looking for a new volunteer junior advocacy associate to help support the work of CN Cameroon. The role would be an ideal opportunities for graduate students and doctoral students looking for more practical experience. We are open to a wide array of applications so long as the applicant has the necessary qualifications.

Brief description:

The Junior Advocacy Associate-Cameroon position for Contra Nocendi is designed to assist the Contra Nocendi Cameroon team and Contra Nocendi International team with advocacy support for issues uncovered in the field. This role would be a good opportunity for a graduate student or highly motivated undergraduate student with good rights skills and research skills to develop hands on experience with human rights. This role is a voluntary role.

Qualifications

– Bachelor’s degree in law or other social sciences.

– 1-2 years previous working experience (preferably with NGOs or other civil society or-ganizations). This can be other voluntary work or placement schemes.

– Availability to work independently and meet deadlines.

– Professional candor and respect for the proper handling of sensitive material and con-versations.

– Fluent English.

– Ability to work as part of a diverse team that includes embracing gender fairness and LGBTIQ+/SOGIE rights. This is a must!

– Desirable: Speaks French, experience and/or course work in public international law and/or human rights.

Tasks

To discharge their duties, The Junior Advocacy Associate should be able to perform the following tasks:

Observational skills: The FRA needs to be able to work in a highly accurate manner, paying close attention to detail and keeping records of their work.

Communication: Communicate effectively, both orally and in writing. Given the importance and sensitive nature of the tasks and information collected, the Junior Advocacy Associate must reflect emotional intelligence, friendliness, confidence, empathy, respect, open-mindedness, and compassion. Prison monitoring is sensitive and requires gender friendly approaches and good communication so as to promote the respect of the human dignity of the subjects.

Administrative skills: Effective time-management skills to meet project deadlines and accomplish your goals; Prepare, present, and write technical reports.

Deliverables

– Regular advocacy focused releases

– Regular contact with Contra Nocendi Cameroon staff

– Research as requested

Note: This role is a voluntary position without remuneration due to funding constraints. This role may be held remotely. Applicants must have the right to work in Cameroon if they are based in Cameroon.

To Apply: Please send a cover letter of not more than 2 pages addressing your motivation for the role and how you fit the requirements for the role along with an updated copy of your CV to contact@contranocendi.org.

CNI supports equality as part of Human Rights Day

As we mark Human Rights Day, equality is an issue we see, face, and combat every day. This year the UN has called on the world to take durable steps to promote equality. Equality in dignity and rights for all supporting opportunities and outcomes for fairer and inclusive societies. At CNI, we embrace the need for equality to contribute to making our society fairer and inclusive.

For Contra Nocendi International, one of key goals in the fight for equality is the promoting women’s rights and gender fairness. We have a dedicated team working to promote women’s rights and develop durable solutions with women in Cameroon. This team is women-led and is re-enforced by the promotion of gender fairness in the articles of association of Contra Nocendi International. Gender fairness is part of our core identity. We are also working with the Law Clinic on Human and Fundamental Rights at the University of Grenoble to investigate the issues facing women in detention in Cameroon. This is not just a review of the actual treatment of women in Cameroon and the legal framework for women in detention in Cameroon, it is also a review of the international human rights framework that is meant to protect women in detention. This will include identifying gaps in legal protections in international human rights law.

Our organisation also supports the need for fairness in vaccine access. The continent of Africa has seen unacceptably low access to the covid-19 vaccines. We felt first-hand the impact of the lack of access with members of our staff being impacted by the pandemic. We have felt the worries of colleagues and friends. We have also watched as our communities were impacted by the pandemic and their safety was deprioritised due to not being in more developed countries. This must change. Every human being has a right to access to health. Your country of birth or residence shouldn’t factor in your ability to access a vaccine for a disease that has claimed more than 6,000,000 lives around the globe.

We have also stood behind the rights of children working with partners to promote children’s rights in Cameroon including with our partners at SODEI. Children and young adults need access to quality education and the necessary support to be active human rights holders. In many countries, children’s rights are not adequately protected by law and are not adequately available for children in their day-to-day life. This level of unfairness and lack of opportunity could stymie the next generation and through no fault of their own. Our commitment to children’s rights includes having our Deputy Executive Director and co-founder leading of Children’s rights team. We have also provided pro bono legal counsel for minors in pre-trial detention, and we plan to expand those efforts in 2022. We are also working with partners that support displaced persons to develop services for displaced children.

Importantly, Contra Nocendi International believes that any effort at promoting equality must include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) rights. We have worked with SOGIE rights organisations across the globe and our commitment to SOGIE rights will not change. We have seen LGBTIQ+ persons harassed and harmed due to the bigotry and ignorance of others. SOGIE rights are human rights. This is not an argument, but a statement of fact. We have raised concerns about human rights abuses against LGBTIQ+ persons to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and UN human rights bodies. This will continue as aggressive as ever.

Contra Nocendi International without an ethos of equality would not be Contra Nocendi International. We fully embrace and support the focus of equality for Human Rights Day 2021. Equality is part of our DNA.

Contra Nocendi International Commemorates International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

On November 24, 2021, the United Nations marked this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, launching 16 days of activism to be concluded on the 10th of December 2020 — the day that commemorates the U.N.’s International Human Rights Day.

As a human rights organization focused on Africa, we actively follow conditions of women in civil society and in detention. Therefore Contra Nocendi joins with human rights organisations around the world in marking this day who believe that gender-based violence can and must be brought to light and prevented.

According to the U.N., violence against women is now a global crisis. Nearly 1 in 3 women face abuse during their lifetime. In times of crises, the numbers rise, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and recent humanitarian crises, conflicts and climate disasters. The new U.N. Women study shows that 2 in 3 women report that they or someone they know experienced some form of violence.

In countries both rich and poor, violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations. Such violence often goes un- or underreported, from shame, social and family stigma, and fear of reprisals felt by victims.

Violence and abuse can manifest in a number of different ways.

  • Intimate partner violence (battering, psychological abuse, marital rape, femicide)
  • Sexual violence/harassment (rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, cyber- harassment)
  • Human trafficking (slavery, sexual exploitation)

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women issued by the U.N> General Assembly in 1993 defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering… including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

Particularly vulnerable are young girls and older women, women who identify as lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex, migrants and refugees, indigenous women and ethnic minorities, and women and girls living through humanitarian crises.

The promise of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs)  – to leave no one behind – cannot be fulfilled without putting an end to violence against women and girls.

To learn more on how to get involved, visit the U.N. Women website.

Contra Nocendi International commemorates Holocaust Remembrance Day

The 27th of January marks the international day in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The date commemorates the day that Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated, 76 years ago today.

It is a day to remember and honour those who lost their lives to the holocaust and suffered as a result of this horrible part of human history, but also those who have been victims of atrocities and acts of genocide since. We must never forget them. It is a day to remember our collective responsibility to prevent such tragedy from happening to others. Protecting their memory includes making real efforts to stop such atrocities from happening again.

On this day, Contra Nocendi International wish to reassert our commitment to upholding the dignity and worth of all human beings and the equal enjoyment of human rights for everyone.

Law Students Get Real World Human Rights Experience, through Partnership launched in 2019 between Contra Nocendi International & University of Grenoble Law Clinic

For the second year in a row, Contra Nocendi International (CNI) is partnering with the University of Grenoble, France’s Law Faculty – Clinique juridique en droit des libertés (Clinidoit) to give future law graduates real-world experience in human rights law. Graduate students are researching, documenting and reporting on the human rights situation in Cameroon, CNI’s focus country.  

Théo Abadie, Pauline Gilbert, Jade Gunther, Flore Jayet and Zelda Montville are the five University of Grenoble law students engaged in this year’s project, managed by CNI’s Farah Jerrari.

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Next-gen human rights defenders need more than classroom experience. That’s why this unique partnership is giving future lawyers a glimpse into actual case studies in the field, and an opportunity to lend their voice to proposed legal recommendations and reforms.


The first cohort’s comprehensive report, Conditions of Detention in Cameroon – English version, French version, examines persistent justice barriers in the Southwest region. These barriers especially impact women and children caught up in the country’s justice system. The report identifies legal challenges at the international and national level, and the gaps between established law and actual practice. The authors also detail the poor state of prison conditions, highlighting a lack of proper detention centres for women, as well as the precarious situation of children also held in custody.

From the report findings emerge several urgent calls to action:

  • Capacity building among state agencies and NGOs in Cameroon who provide on-the-ground legal aid services
  • Establishment of dependable centres dedicated to women – as their rights in detention receive little attention, and deserve continued focus/reflection
  • New laws ensuring special protection for minors and children

Systemic Problems Across Africa

Surprising as it sounds, Cameroon’s prison system literally dates back to the colonial era. Two key crises compounded recent prison overcrowding: the ongoing and well-publicized socio-political unrest in the North-West and South-West regions, and a dramatic uptick in arrests stemming from Cameroon’s 2014 anti-terrorism law. The country has just 79 prisons, serving a population of more than 25 million.

Contra Nocendi regularly comes into contact with detainees being held in conditions that do not meet international standards. We have also come into contact with detainees that have shown signs of abuse. Measuring detention centre conditions brings these issues to light. And continuous monitoring allows us to show that these are not isolated cases, but rather a pattern of behaviour.

We are grateful to the University of Grenoble for this unique partnership, and congratulate the graduate student cohort for their contribution to human rights in Africa.

For more information, contact: Farah Jerrari – fjerrari@contranocendi.org

CNI condemns arrest and detention of transgender women in Douala

Contra Nocendi International has been made aware of the detention of two transgender women in Douala, Cameroon on 9 February 2021. The two transgender women Mildred Loic (Shakiro) and Moute Rolland (Patricia) were arrested by gendarmerie officers (a paramilitary unit) at the Nkoulouloun neighbourhood of Douala, based on allegations of homosexuality.

Their arrest has gone viral because of how they were publicly paraded and videos shared on social media. Shakiro and Patricia are currently in pre-trial detention at the notorious New Bell prison where they are allegedly being subjected to torture and verbal abuse by prison guards and other prisoners. 

We received reports that the two women were questioned about their sexual orientation and coerced to sign a confession without allowing them to review their statement. They are said to have spent the night in a gendarmarie cell with more than 30 men in a 10-square-meter space where many detainees had to sleep on the floor.

On February 10, all efforts to secure their release at the court of first instance in Douala were futile, and their case was adjourned to March 10, 2021.

So far, we have been in contact with a Cameroonian LGBTI advocacy Organization Working For Our Wellbeing who have been helping to provide legal counsel and other assistance.

Homosexuality is considered a criminal offense in Cameroon. Lacking sufficient evidence to convict LGBTI individuals, in cases such as this the government typically resorts to prolonged pre-trial detention, torture and degrading treatment to dehumanise them.

We are deeply concerned by this as it appears that their detention is linked to their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. As an organisation, Contra Nocendi International fully supports and embraces sexual orientation and gender identity expression. When a state criminalises sexual conduct between persons of the same sex, the state tacitly condones and encourages violence inflicted upon LGBTIQ+ persons.

We are deeply concerned about the reports for these two detainees being subjected to torture and verbal abusing, including allegedly from detention centre staff. We remind the government of Cameroon that torture is absolutely prohibited, and its prohibition is a jus cogens norm of international law. There is never a justification for torture. Any infliction of torture, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment is prohibited by international law and by any just society. We further remind the government of its obligation under the Mandela/Robben Island rules to take steps to prevent torture.

Contra Nocendi International is working with other organisations to support these two transgender women and will be actively monitoring their case, including their treatment while in detention. We stand with all SOGIE rights advocates in supporting SOGIE rights and call for an end to the targeting of people due to their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Contra Nocendi condemns the refusal of bail of two transgender women in Douala

Contra Nocendi International has learned of the denial of bail of two transgender women in detained at the New Bell prison in Douala, Cameroon since February 9, 2021. The two transgender women Mildred Loic (Shakiro) and Moute Rolland (Patricia) were arrested by gendarmerie officers (a paramilitary unit) at the Nkoulouloun neighbourhood of Douala, based on allegations of homosexuality.

We are deeply saddened by the refusal to grant bail in a misdemeanour offence punished with “…imprisonment for from six months to five years and a fine of from CFAF 20000 to CFAF 200000”. We are afraid that the refusal of bail in this case is an extreme measure meant to physically and psychologically wear down the detainees.

Bail is predicated on the presumption of innocence, a fundamental principle of human rights which holds that every suspect or accused person is presumed innocent until guilt is established by a fair trial. Cameroon’s constitution and the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) recognise this fundamental principle. According to the preamble of Cameroon’s constitution ‘every accused person is presumed innocent until found guilty during a hearing conducted in strict compliance with the right of defence.’ Meanwhile, Section 8 of the CPC replicates this provision and its application to every suspect, defendant and accused persons.

Cameroon has ratified several human rights instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) which engage the responsibility of the state to guarantee the protection of the right to personal liberty. This protection guarantees inter alia, the right to be released on bail and to a trial ‘without delay’.

Denying the suspects bail in the current circumstances deprives them of these fundamental due process guarantees.

We are equally concerned by their continued detention under unfavourable conditions. The delay in commencing trial while refusing to grant bail deprives the suspects of the right to fair hearing.

We join human rights activists in Africa and around the world to call for their immediate release.