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27 November 2018

Cameroon: Release human rights defender Michel Biem Tong

We, the undersigned organisations, are deeply troubled by the ongoing arbitrary detention of human rights defender Michel Biem Tong who was arrested on 23 October by Colonel Joël Émile Bamkoui at the Secretary of State for Defence in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

At the time of his arrest, Michel Biem Tong was accused of supporting Anglophone separatist groups, and he was charged with glorifying terrorism. After four further appearances at the military tribunal court in Yaoundé, he has been charged on four counts: glorifying terrorism, false statements, incitement to crime and insulting the Head of State. He was transferred to the Kondengui central prison in Yaounde on 15 November 2018 where he risks receiving the death penalty if he is found guilty. He was officially refused visits in prison, and he was denied access to medical care; lawyers were denied access to his legal file.

This judicial harassment follows Michel Biem Tong’s recent monitoring and reporting in the Anglophone region of Cameroon; Michel Biem Tong was working to report on human rights violations being committed by multiple parties, including government security forces, following the disputed presidential election. We believe that these spurious charges are linked to the human rights defender’s peaceful work in support of human rights in the Anglophone region.

Moreover, we recognise that Michel Biem Tong’s arrest is part of a broader pattern of intimidation, arrest, and judicial harassment being led by the government against journalists working to uncover and report on human rights violations in the Anglophone region. Michel Biem Tong’s case demonstrates the government’s efforts to hinder the work of those who denounce the abuses perpetrated by Cameroon security forces by trying them before military tribunals.

Since the Anglophone crisis erupted in 2016, human rights defenders working in the region have faced escalating threats; increasingly, in the last two months following the election, they have reported more regular phone surveillance, death threats, arrest, and detention.

The Anglophone crisis begin in 2016 when teachers and lawyers began protesting the marginalisation of Anglophone culture in Cameroon. Since 2016, the crisis has become increasingly violent as some armed groups claim to be fighting for independence from Francophone Cameroon.

Michel Biem Tong’s trial is slated to start on 5 December at the military tribunal court in Yaoundé; we the undersigned organisations call on the Cameroonian government to:

Immediately and unconditionally release Michel Biem Tong and drop the charges against him, as we believe that he is being held and charged solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;

Cease targeting all human rights defenders and journalists in Cameroon, especially those working on the Anglophone region, so that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.

Organisations signataires:

Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture RCA;
Action des jeunes pour le Bien Etre Social;
Action pour les Droits et l’Education à la Paix;
AGAGES Management Consultants;
Affirmative Action Cameroun;
Alliance Internationale pour la Défense des Droits et des Libertés France;
Arche d’Alliance;
Association Congolaise pour l’Accès à la Justice;
Association De Défense De L'environnement Et De Préservation De L'esprit De Village;
Association de Promotion et d'Appui aux Initiatives Locales de Développement;
Association des Jeunes Solidaires de Garoua;
Association de Lutte contre les Violences faites aux Femmes ;
Association des Mamans Chrétiennes pour l'Assistance aux Vulnérables RDC;
Association pour les Droits de l’Homme et l’Univers Carcéral;
Cameroonian Aids Foundation;
Cameroon O'bosso;
Centre Résolution Conflits;
Centre de Réflexion et de Lutte pour les Droits Humains et contre le SIDA;
Centre pour l'Information Environnementale et le Développement Durable;
Centre pour les Droits de l'Homme et la Démocratie en Afrique;
Cercle des Droits de l'Homme et de Développement;
Cercle Uni des Droits de l’Homme et Culture de Paix;
Collectif des jeunes du Mayo Rey pour le développement;
Collectif Filimbi;
Comité Internationale pour la Réhabilitation de M. Vamoulké;
Committee to Protect Journalists;
Conseil des Jeunes Unis pour la Démocratie et le Progrès;
Convergencia Para la Democracia Social de Guinea Equatorial;
Droit de l’Homme Sans Frontières;
Dynamique Citoyenne;
Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’homme, dans le cadre de l’Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits de l’Homme;
Formation et le Développement;
Foyer de Développement pour l’Autopromotion des Pygmées et Indigènes Défavorisés;
Front Line Defenders;
Human Is Right Cameroon;
Human Rights Defenders Solidarity Network;
Human Rights Institute of South Africa;
Initiative Congolaise pour la Justice et la Paix;
Initiatives For Tolerance in Africans Mind and Mouths ;
International Crisis Group;
Institut des Médias pour la Démocratie et les Droits de l'Homme;
Ligue Des Droits Et Libertés;
Mandela Center;
Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l’Homme;
Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture, dans le cadre de l’Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits de l’Homme;
Organisation pour le Développement et les Droits de l’Homme au Congo;
Os-Civile Droits de l’Homme ;
Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network;
Plateforme «Mon Union Africaine Cameroun»;
Plateforme Tournons La Page;
Playdoo-Côte d’Ivoire;
Centre Juridique d’Intérêt;
Communautés des Défenseurs de l’Afrique Centrale réfugiés en OUGANDA;
Réseau d’Information et d’Appui aux ONGs en République Démocratique du Congo;
Réseau de Défense des Droits de l’Homme du Gabon;
Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale;
Réseau d’information et d’appui aux ONG;
Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains;
Solidarité pour la Promotion des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples;
Stand Up for Cameroon.