IBAHRI calls for due process in Cameroon military trial of lawyer Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla

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The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) is concerned by the trial of lawyer Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla, commencing Monday 13 February 2017 in the Republic of Cameroon, West-Central Africa. As he prepares to face a military tribunal, the IBAHRI calls for the nation’s authorities to ensure that national and international obligations to legal and transparent due process are met. Barrister Agbor-Balla faces wide-ranging and serious charges, including ‘Hostilities against the Fatherland’ and incitement to civil war and revolution. A number of the indictments carry the death penalty on conviction.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Baroness Helena Kennedy QC commented: ‘The IBAHRI is deeply troubled by both the arrest of Barrister Agbor-Balla, a civilian, and that the trial is to be conducted by military tribunal, quite possibly in closed session. The charges he faces have been brought by military authorities that will now prosecute, judge and sentence him. The graveness of the situation cannot be overstated and is acutely disquieting.’

IBAHRI Co-Chair Ambassador (ret.) Hans Corell said: We respectfully remind the Government of the Republic of Cameroon that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights states that “Military courtsshould not in any circumstances whatsoever have jurisdiction over civilians." Further, as stipulated in the Constitution of Cameroon, the government has a duty to respect and uphold the freedoms of expression and association, which international human rights standards extend to lawyers. Furthermore, Principle 23 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states that they shall have “the right to take part in public discussion… to join or form… organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions.”These vital liberties have been ignored in the case of Barrister Agbor-Balla. Cameroon’s authorities should be defending the independence of the legal profession and simultaneously respecting its members’ human rights as citizens.’

Barrister Agbor-Balla is the President of the Fako Lawyers’ Association and heads the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC) which represents anglophone lawyers and teachers. He was involved in recent negotiations with the Government of Cameroon to settle unrest between its anglophone and francophone populations. Following his arrest by special forces on 17 January 2017 after organising peaceful protests to promote the rights of the English-speaking minority in Cameroon, a ban was issued against the CACSC and he was detained incommunicado in a prison in the nation’s capital, Yaoundé.

Baroness Kennedy QC concludes: ‘We implore Cameroon to ensure that the trial is conducted fairly, in accordance with international standards, and that Barrister Agbor-Balla’s rights to legal counsel and to contact a family member are guaranteed.’

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

  1. Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla has formerly served as Legal Adviser for both the United Nations mission in Afghanistan and the United Nations Police in the Congo. The Founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, Barrister
     
  2. Agbor-Balla is currently the President of the Fako Lawyers’ Association as well as the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium. The opening of BarristerAgbor-Balla’s trial was initially scheduled to begin on Wednesday 1 February, but was postponed to Monday 13 February, reportedly due to a coinciding funeral for Cameroonian senior military officials, at which the president of the military court and senior court members were in attendance.
     
  3. The International Bar Association(IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme(ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute(IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

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