Home Page > News Item > CAMEROON – Writer Detained; Faces up to 50 years in Prison

RAN 04/12 23 January 2012

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International protests the extended detention and ill-treatment of the writer and political activist Enoh Meyomesse by the Cameroonian authorities. Meyomesse has been in detention since his arrest on 22 November 2011, and is charged with robbery and ‘attempting a coup.’ There have been worrying allegations that the evidence against him is fabricated and PEN is seeking more information regarding these claims. In the past two months Meyomesse has been denied proper access to legal representation, and has reportedly been tortured. He will be tried before a military court and faces up to fifty years in prison if found guilty of the charges against him.

Enoh Meyomesse, 57, is the author of numerous books and is a founding member of the Cameroon Writers Association. He was arrested on 22 November 2011 at Nsimalen International Airport in Yaoundé on the return leg of a trip to Singapore. He was charged, alongside three other men, with 1) attempting to organise a coup 2) possessing a firearm 3) aggravated theft. Meyomesse denies all charges and maintains that he is being held because of views expressed in his writings, and for his political activism.

The day after his arrest, Meyomesse was sent to a prison in Bertoua (Eastern Province), where he was held in solitary confinement – and complete darkness – for thirty days. During this time, the writer was denied access to a lawyer; he also says that he was tortured. On 22 December 2011, Meyomesse was moved to the over-crowded Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé, where he is still being held.

On 12 January 2012, the military court issued Meyomesse with a warrant that will keep him detained in harsh prison conditions for the next 6 months as the government conducts its investigation, with the possible of an extension for a further 6 months. His lawyer has told press that he has been denied the full details of the charges against his client. A date for the next hearing has not been set.

There are reports that the prosecution has fabricated evidence, but, due to a lack of further information, PEN International is unable to take a position on the charges against Meyomesse at this time. However, we are extremely concerned by his harsh treatment, and by the Cameroonian authorities’ unwillingness to allow Meyomesse fair conditions in which to mount a proper defence in an open court.

We believe that in its ill-treatment of Meyomesse, Cameroon is in breach of its obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture, and also of its obligations under Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). By denying Meyomesse access to a lawyer for a month, Cameroon also breached its obligations under Articles 9 and 14 of the ICCPR.

Background

Meyomesse is a writer and politician. He has published more than 15 books, including novels, essays and works on political and cultural themes. His first book was a collection of poems. In 2010, he published Le massacre de Messa en 1955 (The Massacre of Messa in 1955) and the tract Discours sur le tribalisme (A Discussion on Tribalism), in which he discusses the destructive effects of tribalism in Africa politics. Meyomesse attempted to run as a presidential candidate in the election on 9 October 2011, but was denied registration. His passport was seized in January 2011 while trying to leave Cameroon to report on the political stand-off in Cote d’Ivoire.

Cameroon has a poor record on human rights generally and on freedom of expression particularly.

In 2010, the US ambassador to Cameroon, Robert Jackson, publicly drew attention to the country’s human rights problems:

‘Human rights abuses….killings and other abuses by security forces, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, and arbitrary arrest and detention of citizens, including local human rights monitors and activists….incidents of prolonged and sometimes incommunicado pretrial detention…government restricted freedoms of speech, assembly, and association…’

Amnesty International has also criticised the prison system in Cameroon for its over-crowding and life-threatening conditions.

Please send appeals:
Calling for Meyomesse to receive a fair and open trial in a civilian court;
Expressing serious concern that Meyomesse has been denied proper access to a lawyer, and that his lawyer has been denied access to the full facts of the charges against his client, breaching Cameroon’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
Condemning the reported torture of Meyomesse and the harsh conditions in which he is being held.

Write to:

President
President Paul Biya
Fax: +237 22 22 08 70
Email: cellcom@prc.cm or contact@presidenceducameroun.com
Messages may also be sent via the Presidency’s website: http://www.prc.cm/index_fr.php?link=messenger/write_pr

Minister of Justice
Hon. Minister of Justice Laurent Esso
Ministry of Justice
Yaoundé
Cameroon
Fax: +237 22 23 00 05

Prime Minister
Mr. Philemon Yang, Prime Minister
Fax: +237 22 23 57 35
Email: spm@spm.gov.cm

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Cameroon in your country if possible. Details of some Cameroonian embassies can be seen here: http://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-of/cameroon

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 24 March 2012***

For further details please contact Cathal Sheerin at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: PEN International, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 207 405 0339 email: cathal.sheerin@pen-international.org

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