Global Conscience Initiative has called on the Cameroon judicial hierarchy to investigate and prosecute those who have abused and tortured prisoners in Kumba.
The call to all levels of judicial authority follows a thorough investigation and report by Global Conscience Initiative into the torture and medical neglect of prisoners by administrators at Kumba Principal Prison. Three prisoners reportedly died because of the torture and lack of medical care over a period in 2008, while more than a dozen others were left scarred for life and or severely handicapped.
The GCI report focused particularly on an incident of significant and prolonged torture of detainees on August 18, 2008. GCI has developed a multi-pronged strategy to bring justice to the victims and the families of those who died. The strategy is also aimed at reforming prison conditions in Cameroon. From State Counsel to the Minister of Justice, the first stage was to exhaust all domestic remedies for justice.
In a number of meetings with the Senior State Counsel at the High Court in Kumba, GCI staff lodged a formal complaint and presented the report on the torture incidents. State Counsel ordered another independent investigation. Its findings matched those in the GCI report and counsel agreed to prosecute the administrators responsible.
On October 13, GCI Board Chairman Pende Eddie Nelson, Programme Director Justine Lucas, and GCI Prisoner Rights intern Brendan Fletcher, met the Procureur General in Buea in regards to the GCI report. The Procureur-General argued that as a developing country, Cameroon had fewer rights obligations than others, despite that the Cameroon constitution states international instruments supersede domestic laws.
The Procureur General, however, called the Senior State Counsel to discuss action on the torture incidents. He asked the State Counsel to forward his own report on the pending prosecutions. This has added to the pressure on counsel to act. On October 19, in Yaounde, Lucas and Fletcher presented the report on Kumba prison to the Secretary of State and Inspector-General of Cameroon.
After much discussion between all on the human rights situation in the prisons, the Secretary of State promised to analyse the report as well as forward it to the Minister of Justice.
Now to the United Nations GCI has now exhausted all domestic remedies and so can file complaints at the United Nations under the Convention Against Torture or International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, should the Cameroon authorities fail to act.
However, GCI remains hopeful the Senior State Counsel will persist in the prosecutions of the offenders, thereby fulfilling Cameroon’s international human rights obligations. International pressure GCI is pursuing partnerships with national and international human rights NGOs to facilitate the exchange of resources and ideas, and increase the international pressure on Cameroon.
The hope is to compel authorities to bring justice to the victims of these atrocious acts of torture and ameliorate the deplorable conditions and treatment of prisoners in the Kumba Principal Prison.
GCI is already partnered with Volunteers for Prison Inmates, the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA), the Progressive Initiative for Cameroon (PICAM), and Action Des Chretiens Pour l’Abolition de la Torture (ACAT) au Cameroon.