Judge Throws Out GCI Application for Release of Suspects

The High Court of Fako Division, Buea, July 27 threw out an application filed by Global Conscience Initiative (GCI) for the immediate release of three persons who have been in detention in the Buea Central Prison since August 20, 2008, stating that their detention is not illegal. Justice Forbang Leslie sitting with Mrs. Emoh and Mrs. Fankam as Registrars delivered the decision from his chambers in the absence of the respondents.

On July 15, 2009, GCI filed an application for the immediate release of Mr. Akwo Kevin, Itoe Elvis, and Momfor Jong David pursuant to Sections 584 and 585 of the Criminal Procedure Code on Habeas Corpus.

GCI attached a three-page affidavit to the application stating how a vigilante group arrested the trio from their homes in Kumba at night on August 14, 2008, handed them over to the police in Kumba where they were detained for one week , and then brought to the Buea Central prison. GCI also stated in the affidavit that the trio was simply put in prison with a police custody order and were detained for about 11 months without being brought before a judicial authority for arraignment or for their arrest and detention to be justified. To GCI, these consist of a serious breach of provisions of the Criminal Procedures in Cameroon on which grounds GCI hinged the application.

Shortly after GCI started investigations into the detention of the trio, GCI found remand warrants inserted in the prison files of the trio that were signed by the Examining Magistrate of the Military Tribunal in Buea on July 8, 2009, which is the same day that the Superintendent of Prisons of the Buea Central Prison was notified that the trio had been mistakenly detained on police custody orders rather than remand warrant.

It is on the strength of this remand order that Justice Leslie ruled that the trio were “duly detained” and therefore should apply for bail before “the competent Judge of the Military Tribunal in Buea”.

GCI Chief Executive Officer, Samba Churchill, has said that GCI will appeal the ruling and maintained that the conduct of the arrest and detention clearly violated the provisions of the CPC. The detention of the trio between August 20, 2008 and July 8, 2009 without a remand warrant cannot be legalized by belatedly issuing a remand warrant dated July 8, 2009. “We do not think that it is appropriate to detain a suspect for 11 months without charging him nor bringing him before a judicial authority” said the CEO. “We have no doubt in our mind that the military authorities produced the instruments of detention only when we opened investigations into the detention of the suspects.”