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Cameroon
29.11.12
Urgent Interventions

Arbitrary arrest of and judicial harassment against Mr. Nasako Besingi and four SEFE collaborators

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

CMR 001 / 1112 / OBS 111

Arbitrary arrest / Release on bail /

Judicial harassment

Cameroon

November 29, 2012

The Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for HumanRights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cameroon.

Briefdescription of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliablesources about the arbitrary arrest of and judicial harassment against Mr. Nasako Besingi, Director of the NGO Struggle to Economize Future Environment (SEFE), alocal environmental organisation based in Mundemba, Ndian division, SouthwestCameroon, and four of his collaborators, Ms. Ekpoh Theresia Malingo, Mr.Isele Gabriel Ngoe, Mr. Mosongo Lawrence Namaso and Mr. NweteJongele.

Accordingto the information received, in the morning of November 14, 2012, over 15heavily armed Gendarme officers led by Brigade Commandant Luc Evoundou raidedthe premises of SEFE in Mundemba, where over 50 members of the local populationhad come to get T-shirts that were prepared for a peaceful campaign against thecompany Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC), a local subsidiary ofthe New York based company HERAKLES Farms, and its establishment of acontroversial large-scale palm oil plantation on 73,000 hectares in the area[1].On this same day, the Governor of the southwest region from Buea wasvisiting Mundemba to install the local government official and the localpopulation wanted to use this occasion to wear the T-shirts as a means topeacefully voice their rejection of theoil palm plantation project to the authorities.

Mr.Nasako Besingi was then arrested without warrant along with four of hiscollaborators, Ms. Ekpoh Theresia Malingo, Mr. Isele Gabriel Ngoe, Mr. MosongoLawrence Namaso and Mr. Nwete Jongele. They were forced into a pick up vehiclebelonging to the department of forestry and wildlife protection and whisked offfor detention at the Gendarmerie brigade in Mundemba. The officers also seizeda large consignment of the campaign T-shirts, a camera and the mobile telephoneof Mr. Besingi. It was further reported that some local women were forcefullyundressed by the gendarmes who removed their campaign T-shirts in public,leaving them partially naked with only their breast wears.

Mr. Nasako Besingi, Ms. Ekpoh Theresia Malingo, Mr. Isele Gabriel Ngoe,Mr. Mosongo Lawrence Namaso and Mr. Nwete Jongele were detained incommunicadofor 24 hours. While in detention, no charges were brought against them.Visitors who came to visit them with food were turned away by the Gendarmes andwere only allowed the next day. The commandant of the gendarmerie would haveadded that Mr. Besingi was not allowed to communicate. They were detained indirty and stinking cells that were over crowded with over 12 detainees who hadno beds to sleep on or chairs to sit on, with no lights, poor ventilation andno toilets.

On November 17, 2012, the State counsel for Mundemba visited Mr. NasakoBesingi, Ms. Ekpoh Theresia Malingo, Mr. Isele Gabriel Ngoe, Mr. MosongoLawrence Namaso and Mr. Nwete Jongele and asked the gendarmes to bring them tothe legal department, where they arrived at 1 pm. The defenders were thenreleased on bail at 5.30 pm on a recognizance of 750,000 FCFCA (about 1,140EUR). Although no charges have been brought against them yet, they wererequested to appear before the legal department on December 4, 2012.

The Observatorystrongly condemns these arrests and the judicial harassment of Mr. Nasako Besingi, Ms. Ekpoh Theresia Malingo, Mr. Isele Gabriel Ngoe,Mr. Mosongo Lawrence Namaso and Mr. Nwete Jongele, as it seems tomerely aim at sanctioning SEFE peaceful human rights activities. In particular, SEFE is representing the indigenous population in thepublic litigation that has been brought to court since August 2011 against theSGSOC -Cameroon - HERAKLES Farms USA project that would lead to massivedeforestation and threaten the livelihoods of residents in an area home tovital biodiversity.

Actions requested:

Pleasewrite to the authorities of Cameroon and ask them to:

i. Guarantee in allcircumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Nasako Besingi, Ms.Ekpoh Theresia Malingo, Mr. Isele Gabriel Ngoe, Mr. Mosongo Lawrence Namaso andMr. Nwete Jongele as well as all human rightsdefenders in Cameroon;

ii. Put an end to all actsof harassment - including at the judicial level - against them as well asagainst all human rights defenders in Cameroon;

iii. Conform in anycircumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders,adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, inparticular:

- article 1, which statesthat “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, topromote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedomsat the national and international levels”,

- and article 12.2 whichprovides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protectionby the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association withothers, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adversediscrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of hisor her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the presentDeclaration”;

iv. Ensure in allcircumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordancewith 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: spm@spm.gov.cm
  • 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, 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: cndhl@iccnet.cm / cdbanda26@yahoo.fr
  • Ms. Enonchong Annet, Protection Officer of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, Email: annet_mbeng@yahoo.com
  • H.E. Jean Simplice Ndjemba Endezoumou, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cameroon to the United Nations Office in Geneva, rue du Nant 6, 1207 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 736 21 65, Email: mission.cameroun@bluewin.ch
  • Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon in Brussels, 131 av. Brugmann, 1190 Forest, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 344 57 35; Email: ambassade.cameroun@skynet.be

Please also write todiplomatic representations of Cameroon in your respective countries.

***

Geneva-Paris,November 29, 2012

Kindlyinform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in yourreply.

TheObservatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of HumanRights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

Tocontact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

· Email: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

· Tel and fax OMCT: + 4122 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29

· Tel and fax FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / 01 43 55 18 80

[1] HERAKLES’spresence in the region is considered a security risk by those opposed to theproject, and as a threat to local communities’ rights. Its reputation istarnished by an abundance of illegal activities: for example, the treaty ofestablishment linking SGSOC to the Cameroonian State gives the company theright to “arrest and detain” any person crossing the concession, a clause thatviolates both national law and international conventions ratified by Cameroon.Moreover, the company does not have a lease agreement with the State andtherefore does not have the legal right to conduct its operations in the areaswhere it is located.

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