Freedom House Questions Due Process in Case of Political Prisoner in Cameroon
The case of political prisoner Michel Thierry Atangana in Cameroon will reach a critical juncture tomorrow as the prosecution plans to rest its case with regards to new embezzlement charges against him. The hearing is an opportunity to withdraw the charges as opposed to handing the case over to the judges. Freedom House remains concerned that these new charges are being levied in violation of Cameroonian law; we urge for a critical review of the case and the withdrawal of the charges if they are impermissible under the procedural or legal codes.
According to reports, Atangana's original embezzlement trial was conducted in an overnight session without the assistance of counsel and without the chance to respond to the charges. He has served almost his entire 15-year sentence as a result of a procedure that deviates from that proscribed under Cameroon law. Freedom House is also concerned that the latest charges of misappropriation of government funds against Mr. Atangana may be a continued reflection of political animosity toward his co-defendant, Titus Edzoa, former Secretary General of the Presidency. Moreover, since the case being pursued against Mr. Atangana appears to arise from the same operative facts as his previous conviction, there is a stronger likelihood that the act of filing new charges in Mr. Atangana’s case violates both Cameroonian law and international standards of jurisprudence regarding the double-jeopardy principle.
Cameroon is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012. Cameroon’s courts have a long-standing reputation of being used as a tool of political retribution and score settling. The government of Cameroon must work to ensure that the rule of law is upheld and that it is the sole basis for engagement with and decisions made under the justice system.