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Cameroon: President Paul Biya Signs Decree to Commute and Remit Sentences of Prisoners

April 17, 2020

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Prisoners Protesting inside Kondengui prison in Yaounde, photo credit Post Newspaper

The President of the Republic, Paul Biya has signed a decree to commute and remit sentences of prisoners whose sentences had become final as of the date of signature of the decree.

The measure concerns eleven categories of detainees. The commutation of sentences takes effect as from the date of signature of the decree, April 15, 2020, and the date also marks the starting point for the calculation of the remaining term of imprisonment to be served.

The decree conforms with the laid down laws in the country. The constitution in article 8 paragraph 7 gives authority to the Head of State to exercise the right to clemency after consultation with the higher judicial council. The Head of State decides the nature of the cases concerned but equally the context under which such a decision is taken.

Persons sentenced from corruption charges, rape, embezzlement and acts of terrorism do not benefit from the remission of sentences. This will come as a blow to supporters of the jailed Ambazonia leaders, who were hoping the leaders will be part of the order.

Those 11 categories of those that have had their sentences commuted include:

1: Commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment in favour of persons initially sentenced to death

2: Commutation to 25 years in favour of persons initially sentenced to death and whose sentence has already been commuted to life imprisonment

3: Commutation to 25 years in favour of persons initially sentenced to life imprisonment that has not yet been commuted

4: Remission of 5 years in favour of persons initially sentenced to death and whose sentence has already been commuted to a term of imprisonment

5: Remission of 5 years in favour of persons initially sentenced to life imprisonment that has already been commuted to a term of imprisonment above 10 years.

6: Remission of 5 years in favour of persons initially sentenced to life imprisonment that has already been commuted to a term of imprisonment below or equal to 10 years.

7: Remission of 3 years in favour of persons initially sentenced to a term of imprisonment equal to or above 10 years.

8: Remission of 3 years in favour of persons initially sentenced to a term of imprisonment below 10 years but above 5 years.

9: Remission of 2 years in favour of persons initially sentenced to a term of imprisonment below 5 years but above 3 years.

10: Remission of 1 year in favour of persons initially sentenced to a term of imprisonment below or equal to 3 years.

11: Remission of 1 year in favour of persons who have to serve a term of imprisonment below or equal to 3 years.

In the application of remissions provided by the decree, Minors within the meaning of criminal law who have been sentenced shall also benefit from one-third of the applicable remission.

International Human Rights Organization, Human Rights Watch has been advocating for leaders across the globe to decongest their prison and set prisoners free. The fear was drastic chaos in most prisons which are notably overcrowded, should cases of the coronavirus is detected.

It should be noted that this is not the first time the Head of State has done such a gesture to prisoners. 333 detainees related to the Anglophone crisis were released before the commencement of the Major National Dialogue in the country.

In Egypt, the hashtag “release the prisoners” is trending, with activists and social media users using it to highlight the plight of the country’s thousands of political prisoners, as well as the unsanitary conditions they are leaving in.

In Syria, there are growing calls for prisoners to be released amid the pandemic, despite the government’s accounts that there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country thus far. 33 cases and two deaths have since been reported in the country.

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