Cameroon: Ten arrested Anglophone leaders at risk of unfair trial and torture if deported from Nigeria
Ten leaders of the independence movement in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon could be at risk of torture and unfair trials if extradited from Nigeria, where they have been arrested and detained in secret for one week, Amnesty International said today.
On 5 January, armed men in plain clothes stormed a hotel in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja where the activists, all members of the pro-independence Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC), were meeting, and arrested them without presenting a warrant or providing an explanation. They are being held incommunicado, without any access to a lawyer, in contravention of Nigerian law which demands they must be seen by a judge within 48 hours. Human rights lawyers in Nigeria have said that an extradition request has been made by the Cameroonian government, but no details have been made public.
“By holding these activists in secret, without charge, the Nigerian authorities are failing to respect both national and international law. If they are extradited to Cameroon, they risk an unfair trial before a military court and the deeply disturbing possibility of torture,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
“Efforts to tackle the Anglophone crisis should always respect the law, and avoid restricting freedom of expression. Authorities in Nigeria should immediately disclose the activists’ whereabouts, allow them access to a lawyer, and unless they have sufficient evidence to charge them with a recognizable crime, release them immediately”.
The SCNC members said that they were meeting in Nigeria to discuss the influx of thousands of asylum seekers following protests in October, in which more than 20 civilians were killed by security forces. In recent months, more than 10 members of security forces have also been killed by more radical pro-independence groups. The SCNC has always claimed to pursue their aim of independence for the Anglophone regions through peaceful means.
All those arrested were legally living in Nigeria, and some had been granted political asylum. Under Nigerian law, it would be illegal to extradite the activists for political crimes, or if they faced the risk of torture or an unfair trial.
In Cameroon, those charged with crimes related to national security are prosecuted by military courts without respect for due process, and Amnesty International has documented a widespread pattern of torture by security forces and intelligence agencies. In July 2017 the organization published a report documenting more than 100 cases of torture of people accused without evidence of supporting Boko Haram.