By Boris Esono Nwenfor
A five-day nationwide strike action to protest the poor treatment of lawyers by Cameroonian state authorities has been called by the Cameroon Bar Council. The call for a general sit-in was made August 31, 2019, following a meeting to evaluate the difficulties faced by lawyers in the practice of their profession.
In a resolution signed by the 13 members of the Cameroon Bar Council, the body frowned at the fact that some of their colleagues were brutally beaten recently by forces of law and order. “In spite of previous complaints made, lawyers are continuously being threatened, arrested and detained in the course of exercising their functions,” the council noted with dismay.
“The Bar Council in protest calls on all lawyers to observe a five-day sit-in strike beginning as from the 16th to the 20th day of September 2019,” the legal body resolved.
The council was also chagrined by the fact that lawyers are constantly being denied access to their clients in detention centres like the dreaded Secretariat of State for Defence (SED), gendarmerie brigades, police stations and prisons. “The rights of accused persons protected by national and international instruments ratified by Cameroon are constantly and consistently being violated by judicial authorities.”
Barrister Eric Mbah, representative of the Cameroon Bar president in the North West Region, speaking to the BBC said, “The judicial system in Cameroon is very sick-from the trial of accused persons in a language they do not understand, the extraction of confessional statements from the accused persons by torture, threats and others. There is a lot o extortion and it is no news that lawyers are rejected in court, threatened and when they go to police stations to check on their clients, they are brutalized, extorted and detained.”
Barrister Amungwa Tanyi Nicodemous has tasted the bad side of the security officers in Cameroon as he was beaten into a coma. He detailed his experience for the BBC stating, “I was returning to my office and I was attacked by two gendarmes. When I started speaking English, the two of them fall on me and they strangled me to a deadly point and I only discovered myself in the hospital, several hours after. When I worked, I was told the population who watched the dirty scene had to call the police to come and disarm one of the gendarmes who had a pistol on him.”
He added, “This is not the first time I am suffering some torture from uniform officers in Cameroon. Sometime I went to judicial police in Yaoundé to access one of my clients and behold a battery of police officers bundle me into the office of the judicial police who joined the others in quarrels and said I will be sent to prison before midday and I challenged them.”
Barrister Joseph Fru and his colleagues survived a military shooting with some 6 bullets lodged in their car in Bamenda, North West region. “…Because of the corruption, impunity, they are afraid of us, they do not like us and are afraid of us. We are being treated this way simply because we confront them, we tell the truth and interpret the law the way it is” he said.
The Minister of Justice, Laurent Esso is yet to react to the latest move from the legal counsel. In the previous protest by English speaking lawyers, the Minister of Justice stated that hunger will beat them back to the court.