Home Page > Keeping Score at the World Cup: Cameroon

TWEET! #KeepingScore #Cameroon must release writer Enoh Meyomesse immediately & unconditionally @PR_Paul_Biya

All statistics and cases used for the Keeping Score campaign have been selected from the Case List.

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CASE LIST 2013 – CAMEROON

CAMEROON

Killed: motive unknown

*Eric Ohena LEMBEMBE:

Profession: executive director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), LGBT rights activist, author of several chapters in From Wrongs to Gay Rights, journalist and contributor to the ‘Erasing 76 Crimes’ blog. Date of birth: 1980 Details of killing: Lembembe was found dead, his body mutilated, on 16 July 2013. It is thought that he was murdered between 12 and 13 July. Lembembe’s neck and feet appeared to have been broken, while his face, hands and feet had been burned with an iron. His murder reportedly followed several attacks on the offices of human rights defenders, including those campaigning for equal rights for LGBT people. On 20 September 2013, Cameroon’s ambassador to Geneva reportedly told the United Nations Human Rights Council that Lembembe had been killed because of his personal life, suggesting that the journalist might have been a criminal killed in a “settling of scores”. The ambassador’s claims came despite the authorities’ failure to identify any suspects two months after Lembembe’s murder. He reportedly dismissed all concern that his murder was linked to his activism as “fantasy”.

Imprisoned: main case

Dieudonné Enoh MEYOMESSE:

Profession: author, historian and president of the National Association of Cameroonian Writers. Many of his books are critical of President Paul Biya, Meyomesse is also a political activist who aspired to be a candidate for the 9 October 2011 presidential election under the banner of the United National Front (Front National Uni, FNI). Date of Birth: Born 1954 Sentence: Seven years Place of detention: Kondengui maximum security prison, Yaoundé Date of arrest: 22 November 2011 Details of arrest: Meyomesse was arrested at Yaoundé airport on his return from a trip to Singapore and was charged with armed robbery (of gold) and organising a coup. He was accused along with three other men who had accompanied him on the trip. According to Amnesty International, on 18 November 2011, while Meyomesse was in Singapore, gendarmes broke into his house without a search warrant and took documents, compact discs, flash drives, photographs and other personal property. Several days after their arrest, Meyomesse and his three co-accused were transferred in the middle of the night to Bertoua, the capital of Eastern region, where they were held incommunicado. While there, all four were reportedly deprived of food and water for several days at a time and made to sleep on the bare floor in a dark cell infested with insects. A judicial interrogator put a gun on a table and threatened to shoot them in the thigh if they did not admit to having been involved with plotting to overthrow the government and an armed robbery. Fearing for their lives, Meyomesse and the others reportedly signed statements that they were not allowed to read. Meyomesse also says that during interrogation he was told to call his business partners and ask for 15 million Euros (approx. US$20.5 million) which he would in turn give to investigators: he did not make the call. On 19 December 2011, while Meyomesse’s family was still searching for his whereabouts, the news broke that he was being held in Bertoua. On 22 December 2011, Meyomesse and his three co-accused were presented as armed robbers at a press conference in Bertoua. The accusation of plotting to overthrow the government was not mentioned at the press conference. All four subsequently appeared before Yaoundé military court before being transferred to Kondengui prison in Yaoundé. Details of trial: The three men were charged with armed robbery (of gold) and organising a coup. The trial of Meyomesse and his three co-defendants began in July 2012 at Yaoundé military court. On 14 December 2012, they were found guilty of armed robbery and illegal sale of gold. The Government Commissioner requested a sentence of seven years in prison for Meyomesse and a fine of 200,000 CFA (approx. US$418), which was confirmed on 27 December 2012. His three co-defendants were reportedly sentenced to terms of between two and nine years in prison. According to Amnesty International, the alleged victims of the armed robbery were not presented or even named during the trial, and were only referred to as “Koreans” by the military prosecutor. Meyomesse’s lawyer lodged his appeal the same day. Treatment in prison: See details of arrest above. Meyomesse was held in solitary confinement and denied access to a lawyer for the first 30 days of his detention. He suffers from a degenerative eye condition provoked by the month spent in solitary confinement, in total darkness. According to reports received on 16 April 2013, Meyomesse had been prevented from using the prison computer room where he writes his books since 5 April. In addition, the computer on which he was working and saving his work while waiting to buy a CD to back it up had reportedly been declared out of use and removed from the room. Meyomesse had saved three of his recent texts on the computer in question: Poems of Hope, The Elite Against the People from 1884 to the Present Day and Cameroon, Desert of Human Rights. Meyomesse believes that the prison superintendent may have banned him from using the computer room as punishment for Cameroon, Desert of Human Rights and for his support from PEN and Oxfam-Novib. His requests to meet with the computer room manager to discuss the matter and to have his subscription fees refunded have come to nothing. As of October 2013, Meyomesse still had no access to a computer, but continued to write using paper and pen. Appeal: In April 2013, it was reported that Meyomesse’s lawyers had succeeded in having his case referred to a civil court for appeal. His appeal was expected to be called to the Courts of Appeal for the first time on 20 June; however, it was postponed until 18 July. On 17 October, the appeal hearing was postponed until 20 November owing to the fact that one of the men convicted alongside Meyomesse, who was called as a witness in the appeal, failed to appear in court. The hearing was further postponed until 19 December for the same reason. On that occasion the witness finally appeared in court but the hearing was again postponed, this time to 16 January 2014. Hence, as of 31 December 2013, Meyomesse’s appeal hearing had not officially begun. Background information: According to Amnesty International, Meyomesse says he travelled to Singapore to meet potential business partners there. His three co-accused are personal friends who have been involved in his political campaigns. Before travelling to Singapore, Meyomesse had asked them to travel to the Eastern region to gather information about opportunities, including gold mining, for prospective Australian business partners he was going to meet in Singapore. Meyomesse was reportedly carrying samples of gold when he was arrested. He was previously arrested at Yaoundé airport on 30 January 2011 when returning from Ivory Coast. Meyomesse was reportedly unable to run in the 9 October 2011 presidential elections because the Supreme Court did not validate his candidacy. PEN position: PEN believes that the charges against Meyomesse are politically motivated and that his imprisonment is linked to his writings critical of the government and his political activism. Awards: Meyomesse was awarded a 2012 Oxfam Novib/ PEN Freedom of Expression Award. Honorary member: PEN American Center and Austrian PEN Other campaigning activities: He featured as the “Empty Chair” at the WiPC’s biennial Conference in Krakow, Poland in May 2013. English PEN have published an e-book of translations of his poetry, which may be downloaded here. [RAN 04/12 and updates]

On trial

Baature EDUA MVOCHOU: (Nigerian national)

Profession: editor of Nigerian magazine African Drum Date of arrest: 1 October 2012 Details of arrest: Edua was arrested in Buea along with Martin Yembe Fon, editor of local newspaper The Frontier Telegraph, when they tried to cover a secessionist gathering at a local church. Police officers reportedly stopped the journalists and seized their press cards before ordering them to go inside the church. According to Fon, a large number of policemen entered the church and rounded up those gathered there. Date of release: On 8 November 2012, it was reported that Edua was free on bail. Details of trial: After 10 hours of detention the journalists were taken to court and charged with unlawful assembly. According to Edua’s lawyer, the court had heard his defence and the case was adjourned until 14 March 2013. If convicted, Edua faces a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a fine of 100,000 CFA (approx. US$200). Fon was later reported to have been cleared of all charges. No further news as of 31 December 2013: PEN is seeking an update.

Threatened

*Salomon KANKILI and Adolarc LAMISSIA:

Profession: reporter for the independent newspaper Le Messager and the daily paper Le Jour, respectively Details of threat: They were reportedly threatened by officers of the Cameroonian army’s Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) when they tried to cover an aeroplane crash on 10 June 2013. Officers of the BIR reportedly also obstructed journalists working for private news outlets, but allowed local officials and reporters from state-controlled media to gain access to the site. A BIR officer reportedly grabbed Kankili by the neck and threw him to the ground after he asked about the basis for the restrictions. The same officer reportedly threatened unspecified reprisals against Kankili and Lamissia if they published anything about him.

Conditional release

*Charles Fils ELANGUE:

Profession: head of the culture desk at private broadcaster ABK TV and former reporter for the now-defunct news website Kaï Walaï Date of arrest: 5 June 2013 Details of trial: On 5 June 2013, Elangue was given a 12-month suspended prison sentence, fined 500,000 CFA (approx. US$1,010) and ordered to pay 2 million CFA (approx. US$4,000) in damages in a criminal defamation case. The conviction stemmed from an article published on Kaï Walaï in May 2011, in which he reported the arrest of the plaintiff in connection with a legal dispute involving the sale of a car. Elangue has reportedly filed an appeal and claimed to have evidence, including video footage of the arrest, to support his story. Date of release: Initially jailed in New Bell prison following sentencing, Elangue was released on 11 June after he paid the fine.

Released

*Jean-Marie TCHATCHOUANG:

Profession: editor of the weekly newspaper Paroles Date of arrest: 25 March 2013 Date of release: 24 May 2013 Details of release: He was released from prison having served his two-month prison sentence. Details of trial: Tchatchouang was convicted of defamation on 25 March 2013 and ordered to pay damages of 2 million CFA francs (approx. US$3,900), along with a fine of 435,910 CFA francs (approx. US$852), in addition to a two-month prison sentence. He was jailed immediately in New Bell Prison in Douala.  The claimant, the CEO of a Douala bus company, reportedly filed two criminal defamation lawsuits against Tchatchouang in connection with a series of articles published in Paroles in November and December 2010 that covered widely reported allegations of embezzlement and abusive labour practices against him and his wife.