Late on February 11, 2021, a video surfaced on social media showing a mixed contingent of Cameroon’s security and defence forces in Ndu Subdivision torturing a man, identified as Jean-Claude Tata. The torture of Tata, which only stopped when he slumped into a coma, is yet another case of the disregard for human rights and the law by state security and defence forces who are involved in the war effort against separatists in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions.
In the video filmed by the officers, Tata is being tortured into a coma, by the officers who demand that he tells them where in the bush his brother, a supposed separatist fighter, is hiding. Tata was beaten on the soles of his feet, his buttocks, his back, and even his belly, with a machete. He was also kicked severally on the head. The officers poured water on him while torturing.
So far, the location where Tata was tortured has been identified as the Ndu Municipal Council. The Mayor of the Council, Abdou Kanfon Borno has acknowledged that Tata was arrested and brought to the Council which, he says, now serves as a security post.
Similar cases of torture have been registered since the Anglophone crisis escalated into an armed conflict. On February 3, 2018, defence and security forces arrested Chiabah Samuel, popularly referred to as Sam Soya, a father of five in Belo, who was accused of having information about the killing of security officers. Sam Soya, a handicapped man was tortured as a means to get him to confess. He was tortured to death despite having denied the allegations levied against him. His decapitated body was later disposed of in public. Sam Soya’s case was one of the very first to be registered in the crisis.
Such Human Rights abuses are contrary to what Cameroon, like many other countries, signed and ratified in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Article 3, of the Declaration states that, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person”. Article 5, further says “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
As law enforcement officers, the officers who rather tortured Claude Tata should have abided by the law by treating him with dignity, as a human being, while following due procedure.
Even the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights in itsArticle 5 says “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.” This is also complemented by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which, in its Article 6 (1), says “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”
Furthermore, Article 9 (3) prescribes that anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgement.”
The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, in its article 2 (2) frowns at torture, stating 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.”
In its article 4, the Convention prescribes in its “Article 4 that “Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture. (2). Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.”
By arresting and proceeding to torture Jean-Claude Tata for choices allegedly made by his brother, the officers acted poorly, in disregard of the law, and other international instruments signed by Cameroon to guarantee the respect of human rights and rule of law.
Earlier on when The Post contacted the acting Commissioner of Police for Ndu, Christian Ngeh Tata, he claimed that they did not torture Tata as portrayed in the video. He also refused to acknowledge that he is the commanding officer. His claims were ridiculed when military high command acknowledged the act, and announced that the perpetrators have been arrested to face justice. Sources told The Post that the commanding officer was rather furious at the officers for filming the act, and was seemingly not disgusted by the act itself.
Five days after he was tortured, Jean-Claude Tata released a video in which he expressed gratitude to the Member of Parliament for Nkambe, Gerard Ngala, and the government for giving him a phone and some medications to relieve himself of pains emanating from the torture. So far, he is yet to receive any advanced consultation or treatment that will help identify and treat injuries which might have been caused by the severe torture he received.
The act by the officers did not only violate international legal instruments, but also Cameroon’s local legal instruments.
In Cameroon’s domestic legislation, torture is punishable under article 277 (3) paragraph (1) of the Cameroon Penal Code.
In the Preamble of Cameroon’s 1996 Constitution, it is clearly stated that, “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 « .
Also, Cameroon’s Criminal Procedure Code in its article 30 paragraph (1) outlines that arrest consists in apprehending a person with a view to presenting him without delay before the authority provided for by law or by the title under which the arrest is done.
Paragraph (4) of the same article provides that, « No attack shall be made to the physical or moral integrity of the person arrested. »
The act perpetrated in Ndu by the mixed contingent of defence and security forces was in disregard of not only international recognised and binding legal instruments, but even the laws of Cameroon. Such acts and disregard for the law only alienates the local population and encourages a society of lawlessness.
The DO of Ndu Subdivision, Ibrahim Adamu Shaibu, in a statement, ordered for action to be taken against the officers involved. Later on, the Ministry of Defence announced that those involved have been arrested, but since the alleged action against the officers is not done in public view or with neutral witnesses, many have remained sceptical of the entire justice process.
By Andrew Nsoseka, JADE