The Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) has been monitoring the situation in Cameroon through the Latimer House Working Group. There is great concern about the unfolding crisis in Cameroon and the conflict with its roots. Civil unrest arises at the flash point of language.
Cameroon has French and English as the principal languages and the Common Law and Civil legal systems co-exist. Protests have arisen in recent years on the issue of language which, amongst other things, led to the establishment of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC) an organisation to promote English speaking (Anglophone) rights in Cameroon through non-violent strike action, and protests, and other activities to support the English speaking Cameroonians.
CACSC since been banned by the Government and its senior members, President, Barrister, Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla, and its Secretary General, Dr. Fontem Aforteka’a Neba, were arrested under the mantle of terrorism offences, rebellion against the State, civil unrest and breach of the Constitution.
The CLA has heard reports of harassment and arrests of lawyers, who have had to stay in hiding or even flee Cameroon, due to growing difference with the Government over the future of Anglophone Cameroon and CLA issued an joint statement with the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA) and Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA) on the 8th February (see our home page www.commonwealthlawyers.com)
This activity evinces a substantial breach of the Latimer House Principles to which Cameroon are a party, especially if terrorism laws are used to suppress freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the right to express opinions in a public discussion.
Our colleagues in the international legal bodies have expressed grave concern about the current situation in the Cameroon and are closely monitoring it. We understand that groups from the Cameroon are lobbying the official Commonwealth seeking support and assistance.
I have previously commented on my concerns over the increasing problem of the dangers to lawyers in the daily work. Lawyers should have the same right to freedom of expression and association as any other citizens in their execution of their profession.
Article 16 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states: “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economics or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/RoleOfLawyers.aspx
We understand the trial of the four lawyers has been adjourned till the 23rd of March, 2017 we continue to monitor the situation.
The CLA works to continually uphold the rights of lawyers throughout the Commonwealth to practise their profession.
03 March 2017