Period covered: Mid April to end of June 2014.
Names of participants:
Chamango Blaise Aime: Project Coordinator, Human Is Right
Zenoni Mattia: International Intern from Italy
Gaffuri Riva Michela: International Intern from Italy
Heweyer Megan: International Intern from Canada
Human Is Right acknowledges with gratitude the unconditional support of the Buea central Prison superintendent as well all his staff especially the records office towards the success of the activities. Most importantly, Human Is Right congratulates and thanks all the prisoners who participated in the interviewing process.
Human Is Right seeks to address and improve Cameroon's most pressing Human Rights Issues. Chiefly: corruption, abuse of prisoner's rights, gender inequality, civil liberty deficiencies and lack of access to efficient and effective justice.
Human Is Rights lives to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of prisoners in Cameroon through advocacy, public education and awareness creation, membership capacity building and partnership-building with Government, Civil Society organizations, development partners and with prisoners themselves. It takes its broad mandate from the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, other international instruments on Human Rights and the Constitution of Cameroon.
METHODOLOGY AND PROCESS
The activity was carried out through the administration of questionnaire to inmates under the supervision of prison warders. Some family members were called to provide additional information to complements information gathered from the prisoners.
Human IS Right through the unconditional collaboration and support of the prison superintendent was granted authorisation to interview prisoners in the records office of the prison. The chief of the records office, Mr Ngafeeson was assigned to provide HISR's team all necessary support to carry out the activities which he did very well.
Our interest focused on cases of six prisoners on pre-trial detention for longer than six months and who have not being to court.
From our findings, we were able to identify two suitable cases for Habeas Corpus; the cases of K. E. and M. F. With the support of our pro bono partner Barrister Njilla Stephen, we will file in court habeas corpus on behalf of them on grounds of illegality of their detention. We aim to do same for the other detainees we interviewed after we must have carry out more findings to ensure that they make good cases for habeas corpus. Our work will involve more cases of long awaiting trial and to encourage the judiciary to take quick action regarding cases of detainees.
The Human IS Right team has been hard at work working on our two projects!
Prisoner's Rights Project
A lot of progress has been made on this project! We were ready to submit a habeas corpus application for one prisoner but the other day he told us that he was granted free bail! We are working on contacting someone from his family to come and sign for him and we will continue to monitor his situation in case something arises that we can help with. We have been working on a number of habeas corpus applications for prisoners. We do this for detainees whose imprisonment we believe is unlawful. Many factors are used to determine this such as their length of time in prison without conviction, the last time they went to court, how the arrest was handled and if or their family has ever paid a bribe to a prison official. We are still in the beginning phases of this as we are trying to interview many prisoners to build a database of cases for our network of pro bono lawyers to select from.
We are almost done interviewing all of the minors incarcerated inside the Buea Central Prison. With this aspect of the project we are finding cases suitable for habeas corpus as well as cases that may be able to be transferred to the Borstal Institute here in Buea. The Borstal is an institution where people under the age of 18 can go with the intention to be rehabilitated away from adult prisoners and under better living conditions. Only juveniles who have not committed a felony such as murder or rape are allowed to go here.
Gender Equality Project
This project is also moving along, but at a bit of a slower pace! We are currently looking for a local volunteer who can take the lead position for this project. Interns always come and go so we need someone who is here long term and can really get into the project. We are also looking for international interns as Megan, the intern currently working on this initiative, is leaving in 1.5 months!
2 weeks ago Megan went around Ekona with 2 local women to different social groups who gather on Sundays. She spoke to the groups about Human IS Right and about our current initiative of helping people get civil registration in the form of marriage, birth or death certificates. Our main focus is the marriage certificates which we plan to do through a large collective marriage in the coming weeks. As many as 90% of couples in Cameroon do not have official marriage certificates which can potentially pose major land and financial problems. If anything problems were to arise in the relationship or the husband passes away, the woman has no legal right to any land or financial assets they shared since they are almost always under the man's name.
We hope to do this same initiative in Tole but we are still having difficulties with social mobilization and getting people interested in the project. It has been very difficult and frustrating at times, but we will continue to work hard and make this project a success!!
It is one month that we, as Human is Right's legal team, can go to the prison interviewing the detainees: now we are bringing on three different projects, inside the prisoner's rights one, analyzing women, minors and long awaiting trial detainees situation. Our job is going on in a good way and for that we have to thank the prison staff, who gives us a place where we can do our job, and our project coordinator, Blaise Chamango, who is always available to clarify our doubts.
Since we are at the beginning of our NGO's job it could seem that there are no concrete results, but we truly believe that ours is a long term job and now the most important thing is to put stable basis for the future: that is why we have prepared specified questionnaires for the three different categories of detainees with peculiar question and, always thank to our project coordinator, we are meeting everyday other organizations and associations we can work with.
Even if we are a small NGO, we are sure that our job will give important results: our aim is not our personal glory, but it is contributing to better the judicial machinery in rendering justice within a very period, so that we can give a contribution for solving the problem of the slowness and improve on the quality of service delivery by public authorities in charge to administer justice.
Article written by Mattia Zenoni
"Anyone who is arrested shall be informed at the time of his arrest of the reason for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him". This is what Principle 10 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment says. Also national legislation states that where a judicial police officer intends to remand a suspect in police custody, he shall inform him of the grounds for suspicion and invite him to give any explanation he deems necessary (Section 119 of Criminal Procedure Code).
But according to the latest former detainees interviewed by the Human IS Right team - students arrested last May during the riots at the University of Buea (http://goo.gl/JYaGgY), these basic rules were too often infringed. Most of the students declared that they didn't know the grounds of suspicion and weren't invited to give any explanation at the time of their arrest and during the police custody.
Some of the students weren't brought before a court and informed about their right to legal assistance: this amounts to a flagrant violation of Principle 11 of the above mentioned Body of Principles, which enshrines the right of everybody not to be kept in detention without being given an effective opportunity to be heard promptly by a judicial or other authority and to be assisted by legal counsel. Furthermore, many former detainees alleged that they weren't given adequate time and facilities to communicate in confidence with their legal counsel while in police custody.
According to Principle 16, a detained or imprisoned person shall be entitled to notify or to require the competent authority to notify members of his family or other appropriate persons of his arrest, detention or imprisonment or of a transfer and of the place where he is kept in custody. This wasn't the case of the families and friends of the latest interviewed, who didn't receive adequate information by the authorities.
An additional concerning issue is that detainees weren't informed about the opportunity to apply for free Legal Aid. This is a valuable option for those who can't afford legal assistance, and as a matter of fact many of the detainees' families experience financial difficulties as a result of the detention and have to bear all the costs for legal representation, food, clothes, transport for visits, medical care.
Given these troubling premises, it's easy to understand why the Human IS Right team considers the Prisoners' Rights Project an absolute priority: to enhance pre-trial detainees' access to efficient and effective justice and provide pro bono legal representation for those in need is essential in order to assure the respect for their human rights while in detention.
Written by Michela Gaffuri Riva, Prisoners' Rights Project International Intern
Wednesday the 19th of March isâ€¦Bonus Day! GlobalGiving will give us a 15% more on your donations of at least 25 USD! Please help us with our Supporting Gender Equality in Rural Cameroon Project http://goto.gg/16581 !!!