By Nformi Sonde Kinsai
The team of defence lawyers of Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and other Southern Cameroonians detained as a result of the ongoing crisis rocking Cameroon’s Anglophone Regions, have protested against the abduction of three of their clients from the Kondengui Central Prison in Yaounde by unidentified security officers to an unknown destination.
In a protest memo issued in Buea on October 14, 2021, and endorsed by the Media and Communication Chairperson of the Defence Team, Barrister Amungwa Tanyi Nico, the lawyers say their clients were taken away without notifying them. The protest is addressed to the Attorney General of the Centre Regional Court of Appeal.
According to the lawyers, “we write to demonstrate our righteous indignation to the fact that yesterday October 13, 2021, at about 5pm, three of our clients; Tita Tebid alias congressman; Hamlet Acheshit and John Fonge were abducted from the Kondengui Central Prison in Yaounde by unknown security officers to a strange destination without notifying their counsel.
“My Lord, when we had information on this umpteen abduction of our clients yesterday, we embarked on systematic searches at the Secretariat of State for National Defence, SED; the Judicial Police Headquarters Elig-Esono Yaounde; and at the Military Tribunal which yielded no fruits. Regrettably, at this juncture that we are addressing our memo to you, they are still incommunicado. We fear they might have been taken to Military Police Intelligence Unit, SEMIL or the Directorate General of External Research, DGRE; both of which are not righteous places when it comes to the respect of human rights,” the lawyers complained to the Attorney General.
They recalled that, in the past, they have argued through similar memos to the authorities of the Military Tribunal and in open court at the same tribunal. They have argued that it is not proper for their clients to be extracted like sheep by whosoever from any of the prisons without informing counsel because the right to counsel is sacred as provided for by the Criminal Procedure Code and other international instruments duly ratified by the state of Cameroon.
“On the other hand My Lord, the allegations or offence hanging on their necks are felonies that attract life to death punishment thus necessitate automatic assistance of counsel wherever they must appear. My Lord, our clients are in detention for over four years and have appeared severally before the Military Tribunal Yaounde and have been denied justice, for justice delayed is justice denied.
“This consistent commission of extra-judiciary acts by some security and judicial officers grossly violate their fundamental rights and undermines the role of the lawyer in the judicial process. Above all My Lord, it raises dark clouds on the sincerity and independence of the judiciary that continues to project and protect the prosecution as a superior party in criminal trials,” the lawyers held.
They prayed the Attorney General to cause those holding their clients hostage, to release them forthwith while looking forward to proper sanctions against the perpetrators.
Meanwhile, at press time Sunday, October 17, The Post gathered that Barrister Amungwa on October 15 visited the Central Services of Judicial Research, SCRJ at SED after a meeting with the State Prosecutor of the Military Tribunal (Commissaire du Gourvennement). It is reported that the State Prosecutor confirmed that Tebid, Acheshit and Fonge are at the SCRJ.
It is said, when Amungwa arrived at the SCRJ and requested to see the three, a list was presented which he perused several times and the names of their clients were not seen. He then went to the Commandant’s office and the second in command reportedly told him that he had seen the three but that they are not at their disposal; a statement that kept the lawyer confused and wondering.
Amungwa told The Post on phone that extracting their clients from prison to unknown destinations is now a common practice. He said the practice is creating tension and suspicion amongst the Anglophone detainees and feared such could lead to undesirable consequences even in the detention centres.