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

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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.