Cameroon: Continued judicial harassment against Mr. Nasako Besingi, Director of the NGO SEFE
URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY
CMR 001 / 1112 / OBS 111.2
Judicial harassment / Impunity
December 1, 2015
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cameroon
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continued judicial harassment against Mr. Nasako Besingi
, Director of the NGO Struggle to Economize Future Environment (SEFE), a local environmental organisation based in Mundemba, Ndian Division, Southwest Cameroon.
According to the information received, on November 3, 2015, the Mundemba Court in the Southwest region of Cameroon sentenced Mr. Nasako Besingi for false publication and defamation, and ordered him to pay a fine of 1 million CFA Francs (approx. 1,520 Euros) within 24 hours or face up to three years in prison. In addition, Mr. Besingi was condemned to pay damages of 10 million CFA Francs (approx. 15,200 Euros) to the two civil parties (workers of Herakles) and around 200,000 CFA Francs (approx. 304 Euros) of legal costs.
According to the same sources, the judgement was delivered by Ms. Justice Mpako Ahone Felicial Nchanda in her own office, which did not allow people to attend the verdict.
Although Mr. Besingi was able to pay the required fine (of 1 million CFA Francs) in addition to the legal fees, his lawyer has notified the court of his intention to appeal before the Southwest Court of Appeal in Buea.
The observatory further recalls that Mr. Besingi is also prosecuted in another trial, along with five of his colleagues, Ms. Ekpoh Theresia Malingo
, Mr. Isele Gabriel Ngoe
, Mr. Mosongo Lawrence Namaso
, Mr. Ochoe Charles Tatana
and Mr. Nwete Jongele
, for organising “an undeclared public meeting” while distributing anti-Herakles T-shirts to locals (see background information). The court judgement which was scheduled for November 12, 2015, was adjourned until December 3, 2015. So far, the trial has been postponed on several occasions.
The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Nasako Besingi, as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning his and SEFE's peaceful human rights activities, and calls upon the authorities of Cameroon to put an end to all acts of harassment against him as well as against all human rights defenders in Cameroon.Background information:
This complaint was initiated in the context of SEFE’s representation of the indigenous population in the public litigation that has been brought to court since August 2011 against the SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC) – a local subsidiary of the New York-based company Herakles Farms – project to build a large-scale palm oil plantation which would lead to massive deforestation and threaten the livelihoods of residents in an area home to vital biodiversity. In particular, it followed the publication by Mr. Nasako in Meangwe of an email in August 2012, in which he recalled how he was physically attacked by a group of men identified as junior managers of Herakles Farms
On August 29, 2012, Mr. Besingi was attacked while he was going to Mengwe village to deliver a public lecture about the impacts of the Herakles project on the local population. Mr. Besingi was pulled off his motorcycle, and beaten while he was on the ground. A group of journalists from France 24 then arrived on the spot and the attackers fled. Due to his aggression, Mr. Besingi suffered ocular and nerves injuries.
On October 29, 2012, Mr. Besingi lodged a complaint at the Senior State counsel of the legal department, following his attack. Following months of silence, on January 2014, the State counsel notified him that the complaint had “disappeared from registers”.
Moreover, on November 14, 2012, over 15 heavily armed Gendarme officers raided the premises of SEFE in Mundemba, where over 50 members of the local population had come to get T-shirts that were prepared for a peaceful campaign against a controversial large-scale palm oil plantation owned by the SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC). Mr. Nasako Besingi was then arrested without warrant along with Ms. Ekpoh Theresia Malingo, Mr. Isele Gabriel Ngoe, Mr. Mosongo Lawrence Namaso, Mr. Ochoe Charles Tatana and Mr. Nwete Jongele. It was further reported that some local women were forcefully undressed by the gendarmes who removed their campaign T-shirts in public, leaving them partially naked with only their breast wears.
Ms. Ekpoh Theresia Malingo was released during the night, but the rest of the group remained detained incommunicado under very poor conditions and without charges for more than 48 hours.
On November 17, 2012, the defenders were released on bail on a recognisance of 750,000 CFA Francs (approx. 1,140 euros), although they were not formally charged yet.
On January 14, 2014, Mr. Nasako Besingi appeared before the Mundemba Court on charges of “publication of false news via the Internet” following a complaint filed by Herakles Farms. The complaint followed the publication by Mr. Besingi in Meangwe of an email in August 2012, in which he recalled the attack against him. The trial was postponed 10 times before resuming on June 24, 2014.
On January 28, 2014, Mr. Besingi was granted a recognisance bail of 4,576 euros.Actions requested:
Please write to the authorities of Cameroon and ask them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Nasako Besingi, Ms. Ekpoh Theresia Malingo, Mr. Isele Gabriel Ngoe, Mr. Mosongo Lawrence Namaso, Mr. Ochoe Charles Tatana and Mr. Nwete Jongele as well as of all human rights defenders in Cameroon;
ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against them as well as against all human rights defenders in Cameroon;
iii. Order a thorough and impartial investigation into Mr. Nasako Besingi's physical assault, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law
iv. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular:
- article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,
- and article 12.2 which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;
v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights instruments ratified by Cameroon.Addresses:
· Mr. Paul Biya, President of the Republic, Presidency of the Republic, Palais de l’Unité, 1000 Yaoundé, Cameroon, Fax +237 22 22 08 70
· Mr. Philémon Yang, Prime Minister and Chief of Government, Primature du Cameroun, 1000 Yaoundé‚ Cameroon. Fax: +237 22 23 57 35. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Mr. Laurent Esso, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, 1000 Yaoundé‚ Cameroon, Fax: + 237 22 23 00 05
· Mr. René Emmanuel SADI, Minister of Territorial Administration of Cameroon, Fax: + 237 22 22 37 35
· Dr. Chemuta Divine Banda, President of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, Fax: +237 22 22 60 82, E-mail: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
· Ms. Enonchong Annet, Protection Officer of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms of Cameroon, E-mail: email@example.com
· H.E. Mr. Anatole Fabien Nkou, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cameroon to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Avenue de France 23, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 736 21 65, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· H.E. Mr. Daniel Evina Abe'e, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon in Brussels, 131 av. Brugmann, 1190 Forest, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 344 57 35; E-mail: email@example.com
Please also write to diplomatic representations of Cameroon in your respective countries.
Paris-Geneva, December 1, 2015
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• Email: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / 01 43 55 18 80
• Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29
 Herakles' presence in the region is considered a security risk by those opposed to the project, and as a threat to local communities’ rights. Its reputation is tarnished by an abundance of illegal activities: for example, the treaty of establishment linking SGSOC to the Cameroonian State gives the company the right to “arrest and detain” any person crossing the concession, a clause that violates both national law and international conventions ratified by Cameroon. Moreover, the company does not have a lease agreement with the State and therefore does not have the legal right to conduct its operations in the areas where it is located.
 The legal department, also called the “criminal department”, is the prosecuting body in charge of all criminal matters in the Cameroonian justice system. This department supervises, controls and directs all investigations, and prosecutes at different levels.
 This complaint was initiated in the context of SEFE’s representation of the indigenous population in the public litigation that has been brought to court since August 2011 against the SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC) – a local subsidiary of Herakles Farms – project to build a large-scale palm oil plantation which would lead to massive deforestation and threaten the livelihoods of residents in an area home to vital biodiversity.