Annual Report: Cameroon 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Cameroon 2011

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  • Germain Cyrille Ngota, managing editor of the Cameroon Express, one of three journalists detained in March, died in custody in April. He was allegedly not given any medical treatment during his detention and members of his family claimed he had been tortured. A government inquiry, whose proceedings were not public, concluded that he had died from natural causes but its findings were disputed by journalists and human rights defenders. Robert Mintya, director of the magazine Le Devoir, and Serge Sabouang, director of the bi-monthly La Nation, who had been arrested with Germain Cyrille Ngota and claimed to have been tortured, continued to face charges of fraud and using false documents. Robert Mintya was assaulted by a fellow inmate in August and was hospitalized for several weeks as a result. Robert Mintya and Serge Sabouang were released in November, reportedly on the orders of President Paul Biya, but the charges against them were not dropped.
  • The trial of three journalists and a teacher arrested after a televised debate in 2008 opened in January but was postponed at least six times during 2010. Alex Gustave Azebaze and Thierry Ngogang of the independent television channel STV2, Anani Rabier Bindji of Canal2 and university teacher Aboya Manassé faced charges of revealing confidential information for discussing Operation Epervier, a government anti-corruption initiative.
  • Lewis Medjo, director of La Détente Libre newspaper, who was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in January 2009, was released in June.
  • Former mayor Paul Eric Kingué and musician Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo were serving prison sentences after they were convicted of involvement in the February 2008 riots. Human rights defenders in Cameroon maintained that Paul Eric Kingué was detained because he protested against unlawful killings of alleged rioters and Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo because he composed a song criticizing the amendment of the Constitution that allowed President Biya to stand for president again.

Freedom of association and assembly

The government continued to curtail the activities of the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC), a non-violent secessionist group, whose members faced arrest and imprisonment. Non-violent activities of political organizations and civil society groups were similarly subject to official sanction.

  • In November, seven trade union members were arrested following a public demonstration organized by the Central Public Sector Union (CSP) in front of the office of the Prime Minister in Yaoundé. They included Jean-Marc Bikoko, President of the CSP, and leading members of several education trade unions. They were charged with offences relating to an unauthorized demonstration, and their trial was continuing at the end of the year.
  • Journalists protesting against the death in custody of newspaper editor Germain Cyrille Ngota were prevented by police from staging a sit-down protest on World Press Freedom Day in May. Some claimed to have been beaten by police.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

The Penal Code criminalizes same-sex sexual relations and even the National Human Rights Commission refuses to recognize and defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Arrests, prosecutions and trials of gay men continued during 2010 on a regular basis. Those imprisoned were prisoners of conscience.