I Will Not Be Deterred From Defending Victims Of Oppression- Barrister Legenju

In the evening of Friday, April 30, 2021, about 10 suspected members of the separatist armed group, abducted and molested Barrister Legenju and another unarmed civilian, a teacher in Muea, a locality in Buea Subdivision.

The Barrister has said the inhumane treatment meted on him, would not deter him from being a defender of human rights, and for doing pro-bono cases to free Anglophone crisis victims from detention.

Talking to The Post from his sick-bed, Barrister Vitalise Legenju said the gunmen accused them, (teachers and lawyers) of starting the ‘Anglophone Struggle’ and abandoning on the way. The Barrister says he clarified to them that they started a peaceful movement, which was not intended to take a violent option.

After interrogations, Barrister Legenju said they were ordered to follow the fighters into their camp, and when he questioned and said everything should be discussed there, one of them opened fire and shot him in the leg, asking why he was arguing with them. He said he told them that he was a human rights defender, who has freed over a thousand Anglophone Crisis detainees on pro-bono cases (a group of people the fighters say they are fighting for). However, they did not believe him, but took them into the bush alongside their vehicle.

On their way, they discovered that the Barrister could not make it, because he had lost too much blood. Barrister Legenju told The Post that the gunmen then insisted that he will be attended to, by their nurse, but he rejected the offer, stating that he wouldn’t allow himself to be touched by the gunmen’s nurse. He said after making calls, the gunmen realised that the Barrister, who has worked pro-bono cases and freed over a thousand Anglophone Crisis detainees, and also acted as one of the lawyers for detained Ambazonia leaders, was indeed who he had earlier told them he was, they piped-down. The pressure that was apparently mounted on them forced the gunmen to return the lawyer to a place where he could easily take off and seek proper medical care. The teacher was, however, kept in custody, but later released as the pressure mounted. The Barrister said, after realising their mistake, the gunman who shot him, and then pointed a gun to his head threatening to “waste” (kill) him, said he had intended to shoot on the ground, before the bullet ‘accidentally’ caught him. The lawyer says his born was shattered and some veins destroyed too.

The act of the gunmen, targeting the teacher and lawyers contravened Article 3 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.” Article 5, of the Declaration, also commands that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

In Article 5, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights outlines that: “Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitation and degradation of man particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited.”

On its part, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, in its Part One, Article 2 (2), also states that “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” The action of the gunmen contravened all these legal provisions which warrant them to treat civilians with human dignity and in respect of their rights.

Locally, Cameroon’s Constitution, in its Preamble, says “Every person has a right to life, to physical and moral integrity and to humane treatment in all circumstances. Under no circumstances shall any person be subjected to torture, to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.” This too was disregarded.

The action of the gunmen has drawn wide condemnations, especially as it was against civilians. Organisations such as the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, CHRDA, have issued statements condemning the act.

Asked how the act made him feel, the Barrister told that “It is a very demoralising act. One thing I want to make clear is that The Post, I don’t defend separatists or any other person because of independence or anything. I have a very serious passion for public interest litigation, which is Human Rights, and defending victims of operation is my goal. I defend people for land rights and other rights; it is just that the Anglophone crisis has come to the fore, and we are only talking about police brutality,” he said.

Though stating that the action of the gunmen will not deter him, Barrister Legenju said such acts have completely deterred a lot of people. He said the action shows that no one is safe. “People like us should be scared of the Cameroon military, not from our own. Now if I see the military men and wave and greet them, and I see our own guys and run, then it shows that we are our own problem, not even the military,” he said.  

Barrister Legenju, who went through two surgical operations, said he will have temporal incapacity for about six to nine months. He is expected to spend two months in hospital.

By Andrew Nsoseka, JADE

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