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.
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.