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Saturday, March 2, 2019

Kamtogate: nearly 30 international legal experts mobilize to defend Kamto

On January 28, two days after the "white march" organized to peacefully contest the official result of the presidential election in Cameroon, Professor Maurice Kamto is arrested in Douala with dozens of people.He is then transferred to Yaoundé and placed by a prefect in "administrative custody", within the Special Operations Group (GSO), a service dependent on the general delegation to the national security specifically in charge of operations against commandos, terrorist groups or other organized gangs of criminals. Held incommunicado and degrading for a period of 15 days, Maurice Kamto was finally presented on 12 February, along with 160 other people, at the Yaoundé Military Court.

The Colonel Magistrate of this exceptional jurisdiction makes multiple orders of imprisonment, on charges such as those of "insurrection, hostilities against the fatherland, rebellion, degradation of public property or classified, contempt of the President of the Republic, meeting and demonstration, assembly, political character, destruction and complicity of the same facts ". In localities where marches were able to unfold, videos testify to the brutalities to which the police forces were committed to prevent them, even though they took place in a strictly peaceful way.

Likewise, the Mouvement pour la renaissance du Cameroun (MRC), the political party that Maurice Kamto was the founder and candidate for the presidential election, denied any responsibility for the ransacking of some diplomatic services of Cameroon abroad, that he condemned unambiguously. Like many of his supporters, however, Maurice Kamto is not spared by the military judge who placed him in custody "for an initial period of six months," until August 11. Maurice Kamto is currently incarcerated in Kondengui Central Prison, known for the appalling detention conditions there.

How did we get there? We are reminded of precise, strong images of moments when Cameroon, before the international community as a whole, expressed its esteem for the man that power retains today in his jails. On October 10, 2002, before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague for example, when Maurice Kamto witnessed the favorable ruling in Cameroon, he had brilliantly represented in the border dispute the opponent in Nigeria .

Associate of law schools, dean of the Faculty of Law of Yaoundé, former member and president of the commission of the international law of the United Nations, Maurice Kamto was the natural lawyer of his country. Member of the Institute of International Law and Curatorium of the Academy of International Law, he was already - and remains - a jurist of international law recognized and particularly valued by his peers. This is undoubtedly the reason why Cameroon decided in 2001 to apply for membership of the United Nations International Law Commission, where it was elected by the General Assembly three times and, a few years later, to formally defend his candidacy for election as judge at the ICJ.

Respected abroad

These deserved supports testified to the Cameroonian authorities' esteem for one of the most eminent nationals of their country and the most respected abroad.For seven years, Maurice Kamto has also served as Minister for Justice in the government appointed by Paul Biya.

The resignation of Maurice Kamto from his government post in 2011, followed by the creation of the MRC in 2012, may offer a beginning of explanation for the treatment he is now suffering. Even more surely the fact that Maurice Kamto claimed victory after the presidential election of October 2018, before being briefly placed under house arrest on the day of Paul Biya's inauguration for a seventh term, certainly contributed to seal the fate that is currently his and with him, that of his supporters.

We have no hold on these events and we do not intend to interfere in Cameroonian politics. It is up to the Cameroonian people, and it alone, to decide freely on their political institutions, in accordance with the universal values ​​of democracy and the rule of law. On September 27, 2018, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cameroon affirmed, in the tribune of the UN, that "the consolidation of the democratic culture in Cameroon is an inescapable process".

No tangible effect

We want to believe it. But this process can not succeed without respect for the fundamental principles by which Cameroon is bound. He has vowed to respect international instruments as emblematic as the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the New York Convention Against Torture and Others. cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

What do these texts say? That no one can be worried about his opinions, that every citizen has the right to vote and to be elected, in periodic and honest elections, that human dignity must in all circumstances be preserved, that no one can be subjected to treatment contrary to it, that no one may be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention, that everyone is entitled to a fair hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal that it has the right to freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly..

So far, the public expression of the concerns of the international community, and in particular that of the UN Secretary-General who was the first to be alarmed, has had no tangible effect. The European Union, for its part, does not seem to have taken the measure of the situation.

Form the vow that reason prevails.

Yet, by its founding act, the Treaty of the European Union, Europe, whose parliamentarians will stand in popular suffrage in a few months, solemnly formulated the fundamental values ​​it intends to promote on the international scene. It has done so far in Cameroon with massive financial support: no less than 80 million euros dedicated to improving governance, respect for human rights and standards of justice as part of the 11th European Development Fund for the period 2014-2020. It can not fail to acknowledge that Cameroon's promises are being betrayed, and must freeze all its support programs until it is assured that the fundamental rights of Maurice Kamto and his supporters are duly respected.

To say this is not to want to intervene in the internal affairs of Cameroon. In the light of the present circumstances, it is simply expressing, as did the Secretary-General of the United Nations, our concern about the arrest of Maurice Kamto and his supporters, the treatment they undergo and calling the Cameroon to respect the fundamental obligations it freely subscribed for the benefit of its people and in the eyes of the 171 other States Parties to the UN Covenant, the 164 other States Parties to the New York Convention and the other 52 States of the Continent to the African charter. It is only to form the wish that reason prevails. Not the reason of State. But that of law, justice and dignity, for Maurice Kamto and his supporters as for all Cameroonians.

The following people have signed this forum in their personal capacity: Geneviève Bastid-Burdeau, Professor Emeritus, University Paris I (Panthéon Sorbonne); Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Geneva; Enrique Candioti, former ambassador of Argentina; Sarah Cleveland, Louis Henkin Professor of Human Rights and Constitutional Rights, Columbia University Law School; Luigi Condorelli, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Law, University of Geneva; Olivier Corten, Professor, Free University of Brussels;Jean-Paul Costa, former President of the European Court of Human Rights; Jean-Pierre Cot, former French Minister of Cooperation; Yves Daudet, president of the curatorium of the Hague Academy of International Law; Eric Diamantis, lawyer, Clyde & Co; John Dugard, Professor Emeritus, Leiden and Witwatersrand Universities; Mathias Forteau, Professor of International Law, Paris Nanterre University; Dame Rosalyn Higgins, Queen's Counsel; Luis M. Hinojosa-Martínez, Professor of International and European Law, University of Granada; Catherine Kessedjian, president of the French branch of the International Law Association (ILA);Pierre Klein, Professor, Free University of Brussels; Marcelo Kohen, Secretary General of the Institute of International Law; Franck Latty, Secretary General of the French Branch of the International Law Association (ILA); Philippe Leboulanger, lawyer, Leboulanger and Associates;Ahmed Mahiou, member of the Institute of International Law; Don MacRae, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa; Sean Murphy, Professor, Georgetown Washington University; Alain Pellet, President of the French Society for International Law; Michel Prieur, professor emeritus, University of Limoges; Jean Salmon, Professor Emeritus, Free University of Brussels; Philippe Sands, Professor, University College London;William Schabas, professor at Middlesex University, London; Jean-Marc Thouvenin, Professor, Paris Nanterre University;Christian Tomuschat, Professor Emeritus, Humboldt University Berlin; Sébastien Touzé, professor, University Paris II (Panthéon Assas); Peter D. Trooboff, member of the curatorium of The Hague Academy of International Law (1991-2019); Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, President of the International Law Commission of the United Nations.