from ROSY SADOU in Yaoundé, Cameroon
YAOUNDE, (CAJ News) – THERE are questions about the fairness of the trials that culminated in the military court in Cameroon sentencing ten activists to life imprisonment for demanding the independence of English-speaking regions.
The leaders of the separatist Ambazonia interim government are appealing the conviction slapped on August 20 following charges of terrorism, rebellion and secession.
Human rights groups also believe the judiciary erred in coming up with the sentence reached after 17-hour hearing.
Amnesty International noted the trial, which was conducted in French without adequate translation though the defendants were entitled to a trial in English, took place after serious violations of the defendants’ rights in detention.
Suspects were allegedly tortured in detention.
Defense lawyers accused the judges of bias and withdrew from the proceedings after the main military judge threatened them with arrest for raising objections.
Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said the process had been plagued by pretrial abuses and serious allegations of fair-trial breaches that warranted independent and impartial judicial review.
“It appears that the military court handed down a hasty verdict and sentence without giving the accused any meaningful opportunity to defend themselves,” Mudge said.
Crisis broke out in late 2016 when professionals from English-speaking regions to the streets to demand greater respect for their rights.
Security forces reacted with brute force.
Since then, numerous separatist groups have emerged, taking up arms and calling for the independence of the North-West and South-West regions.
They call the region Ambazonia.
– CAJ News