The UN Human Rights Special Procedures Working Group based in Geneva, Switzerland has called on the government of Cameroon to immediately release Southern Cameroons’ Pro-independence leader, Sissiku Julius AyukTabe and nine others serving life sentences at the notorious Kondengui Prison in Yaounde.
The ten men, commonly referred to as the “Nera 10” were picked up at the Nera Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria on January 5th, 2018, and held incommunicado for 20 days, before they were forcefully transferred to Cameroon.
The Working Group now says the manner in which the complainants were arrested, detained in Nigeria, transferred to Cameroon, detained, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment violated various international laws to which both Cameroon and Nigeria are signatories to.
First, their arrest in Nigeria was carried out without a warrant and with no explanation as to why they were being arrested.
Some 20 armed men “forced them to lie face down, at gunpoint,” the report notes.
“They were handcuffed, hooded, and pushed into cars, subsequently taken to the underground premises of the DIA where they were held until 25 January 2018 when they were forcibly removed to Cameroon,” the Working Group notes in its report.
Contrary to the requirements of international law that entail that a warrant of arrest is duly served, “the ten individuals were never presented with an arrest warrant, nor were they told of the reasons for their detention or indeed presented with any charges during the twenty days they were held at the DIA premises.”
The Working Group says it is “particularly alarmed at the manner in which they were detained- by twenty armed officers, holding them at gunpoint in circumstances when there is no indication that any of the ten men resisted. The Working Group finds a breach of Article 9 (1) and (2) of the Covenant.”
The Group further complains that the people were held incommunicado, without access to family members or a lawyer-a blatant violation of international Law.
Furthermore, none of the ten was brought “promptly” before a judge, and this too violated the fundamental rights of the ten.
According to the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Remedies and Procedures on the Rights of Anyone Deprived of their Liberty to Bring Proceedings before a Court, the right to challenge the lawfulness of detention before a court is a self-standing human right, which is essential to preserve legality in a democratic society.
“This was denied to the ten individuals,” the Group notes.
“Given that the ten individuals were not able to challenge their continued detention, their right to an effective remedy under article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 2 (3) of the Covenant was also violated.”
The Working Group also finds fault with the extradition of the “Nera10” men to Cameroon aboard a cargo military jet. Ordinarily, the ten should have been given the chance to argue against their extradition before a competent Court, but without due process, they were simply bundled and sent back to face trial in Cameroon.
“…all ten individuals were legally present in Nigeria, four of them were recognized as refugees in Nigeria while the other six were registered asylum seekers.” The Working Group contested the legality of the deportations and qualified their detention as arbitrary “where persons were transferred to another country “outside the confines of any legal procedure, such as extradition, and [they were not allowed] access to counsel or to any judicial body to contest the transfers.”
The Federal High Court of Abuja on March 1st, 2019, and November 28th, 2019 recognized these violations of the rights of the “Nera 10” members and called for their release and compensation-judgment not respected by both Nigeria and Cameroon.
The Working Group has also accused Cameroon of violating the rights of the individuals under international Law: they were held at SED until November 22nd, 2018, incommunicado without access to family and lawyers, and tried in a military Court even though they are all civilians.
In addition, they were tried in French, “a language which they do not command and there were no attempts to ensure appropriate translation.”
The Working Group, therefore, concludes that the detention of Messrs. Julius AyukTabe, Wilfred Fombang Tassang, Ngala Nfor Nfor, Blaise Sevidzem Berinyuy, Elias Ebai Eyambe, Fidelis Ndeh-Che, Egbe Ntui Ogork, Cornelius Njikimbi Kwanga, Henry Tata Kimeng and Cheh Augustine Awasum in Cameroon lacks legal basis and is therefore arbitrary.
The Group has thus called on Cameroon and Nigeria to remedy the situation.
The appropriate remedy for the Government of Cameroon would be to “take urgent action to ensure the immediate unconditional release of the ten individuals.”
The Group also calls on both Governments to “accord them an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.”
The two Governments will also have to ensure “a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty “of the ten men and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of their rights.”
The Working Group has referred its findings to the (i) Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers; (ii) Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; (iii) Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; (iv) Special Rapporteur on minority issues; and (v) Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, for appropriate action.
The Working Group has also given the two Governments six months to say whether AyukTabe and Co have been released and if so on what date, whether compensation or other reparations have been made to them, whether an investigation has been conducted into the violation of their rights and, if so, the outcome of the investigation; whether any legislative amendments or changes in practice have been made to harmonize the laws and practices of Cameroon and Nigeria with its international obligations in line with the present opinion; and Whether any other action has been taken to implement the present opinion.