-The Rights organization says opportunity to appeal against the verdict or apply for pardon or commutation of sentence should be accorded
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
The Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, CHRDA, one of the leading rights groups in Cameroon has called on the government “to ensure that all the rights and safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty should be respected.”
This statement is contained in a communiqué issued by CHRDA on September 9 titled “Statement on the death sentence handed down to 4 accused persons by the Buea Military Tribunal” this September 7 who were accused of committing the Mother Francisca school killing in Kumba that left at least six children dead and scores injured.
“An opportunity to appeal against the verdict or apply for pardon or commutation of sentence should be accorded,” CHRDA said in the communiqué send to Pan African Visions.
Several persons were immediately arrested, suspected of having a hand in the massacre including the proprietor, the principal, the vice-principal who was employed according to CHRDA just 18 days before the incident. The discipline master and the security guard were also arrested.
The accused persons were standing trial before the said Court for charges related to acts of terrorism, hostility against the fatherland, secession insurrection, murder and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
12 accused persons stood trial among which five were already in custody at the Buea Central Prison and seven others on bail. Four accused persons were sentenced to five months imprisonment with a fine of fifty thousand FCFA each, while four were slammed the death penalty. Yemeli Gilda, Konte Patrick, Angu Emmanuel and Elangwe Kelvin Eyabe were all given the death penalty while another four were discharged and acquitted.
The death sentence to the four accused persons by the Buea Military Court is unprecedented in the Anglophone crisis and Cameroon in general. The decision to impose the death sentence is happening for the first time since Cameroon last did a similar back in 1997.
“If executed, the state of Cameroon would be joining few other countries around the world still using the death sentence as punishment for a criminal offence,” CHRDA said in a communiqué.
Speaking to one of the acquitted persons who spent six months in jail and was later released on bail before the final verdict, he disclosed to CHRDA that when the unfortunate incident happened in Kumba, being one of the school administrators, the government invited him among other school administrators and told them they were going to be kept at the Buea-Road prison I Kumba for their safety ad security for the time being for the tension to calm down.
After one month, they were transferred to Buea and told they were coming to sign some documents, when they arrived Buea was kept at the Buea Central Prison and later charged at the Military Tribunal.
According to the Rights organisation, Cameroon has ratified several instruments that mention the death penalty and try to advocate for the abolition of capital punishment. The organization, however, notes that the death penalty is not prohibited by the law in Cameroon or any other virtually universal international treaty.
“Even the international customary law on its part does not prohibit the death penalty at the current time, but custom is rapidly changing towards a position in favour of worldwide abolition. At the international level, the most important treaty provision relating to the death penalty is Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which Cameroon has ratified,” the statement continued.
In the communiqué, CHRDA indicated that despite advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty or capital punishment around the world by the international community, few legal instruments in Cameroon still prescribe some crimes punishable by the death penalty which include among others the Law on the Suppression of Acts of Terrorism in Cameroon adopted on December 19, 2014and Law no.2016/007 of July 2016 relating to the Penal Code.
The following sections of the anti-terrorism law and the penal code defined the specific offences warranting capital punishment. For the law on anti-terrorism, the provisions include inter-alia: Section 2(1) (2), Section 3(1), Section 4 (b), Section 5 (1), and for the penal code, the provisions include: sections 18, 22, 102, 103, 111, 112, 276 and 320.
Equally, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 1984, as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights discourages capital punishment.