Rights group calls for immediate release of Cameroonian lawyer
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CAPE TOWN - International rights organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on authorities to immediately release a Cameroonian lawyer who was detained on “bogus” charges of inciting terrorism.
In a statement issued on Monday, HRW said the prominent Cameroonian human rights lawyer Amungwa Tanyi Nicodemus was arrested by gendarmes on May 31 at the Groupement Territorial de la Gendarmerie in Cameroon’s capital Yaoundé while he was assisting a client.
According to his lawyers, after Amungwa complained that Cameroon’s criminal procedure had been breached in his client’s case, the gendarme in charge of the investigation seized Amungwa’s phone without a warrant, claiming that Amungwa had taken photographs at the facility.
While searching for the alleged photographs, the gendarme found other photographs that recorded alleged military abuses in Cameroon’s conflict-ridden anglophone regions and arrested Amungwa, his lawyers said.
He was transferred to the Service Central des Recherches Judiciaires (SCRJ) at the State Defense Secretariat, a detention facility where HRW has previously documented repeated resort to incommunicado detention and torture.
On June 1, Amungwa’s lawyers and the head of the Cameroon Bar Association visited him in detention and urged his release. Two days later, the Yaoundé military court prosecutor rejected Amungwa’s lawyers’ request for bail and returned the case to the SCRJ for “relevant checks”.
“Amungwa’s arrest is a direct attack on the legal profession,” Ayukotang Ndep Nkongho, one of Amungwa’s lawyers, told HRW. “His arbitrary detention reveals a system geared towards stifling and undermining the role and activities of lawyers involved in key human rights cases.”
According to the organisation, Amungwa’s detention takes place amid a broader crackdown in Cameroon on opposition and dissent. He is one of dozens of government critics, human rights defenders and journalists arrested in recent years.