On February 14, 2023, the defence team of Anglophone Crisis detainees revealed that one of the detainee, Yenkong Sulemanu, was severely tortured at Service Central des Recherches Judiciares, SCRJ, of SED in Yaounde, where he is remanded in custody.
The lawyers narrated that Sulemanu was tortured with a rusted machete on the soles of his feet for about an hour, because he blocked a punch from a Gendarmerie officer who aimed for Abdul Karim, an activist. Abdul Karim had criticised a military officer for constantly harassing and torturing citizens from the Anglophone Regions of Cameroon.
The lawyers revealed that Yenkong was ruthlessly tortured with a rusted machete by a Gendarme officer at the behest of the Chief of Post simply referred to as Joseph. “Joseph and his gang took Yenkong Sulemanu to their torture workshop wherein they crammed his legs with a table chair, got hold of the soles of his feet and tortured them with a rusted machete mercilessly for more than an hour. In order to conceal their crime, they moved Yenkong to a solitude cell away from his co-detainees and deprived him and Rabio Inuah, another fellow Anglophone detainee who were all moved in from Bamenda, of their morning visit and communication with family members and counsel for that day,” Barrister Amungwa narrated.
Yenkong, it was revealed, was unable to walk after the torture, and had to be carried on the back like a baby. The only medical attention he received, were tablets of paracetamol for the pains.
The lawyers of the detainees, in an attempt follow up with the ordeal of their clients, were also treated in a disdainful way. Barrister Nico Amungwa Tanyi said he and members of the defence team are being threatened with death for asking that their clients’ rights be respected. Describing the treatment of Yenkong as cruel, degrading and inhumane, Amungwa said one Gendarme officer called Chi was visibly not happy and brutally interrupted their communication by resorting to hate speech, threats of physical elimination as he used the phone to call one of his colleagues at the SCRJ for backup for them to jointly attack the lawyer. Amungwa said the officer promised never to grant him access into the SCRJ as much as he continues to work there.
The treatment meted on Yenkong Sulemanu is, however, not the first case of torture on Anglophone detainees and other persons held in detention facilities in Cameroon. The act of torture has been normalised in Cameroon’s law enforcement bodies. In some instances, acts of torture are videotaped and released on social media by law enforcement officers who are seemingly very comfortable doing it, certainly because their offices and hierarchies do not have a problem with torture.
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 brutally torturing a man identified as Claude Tata. He was tortured until he fainted. His crime, the soldiers said, was that his brother was a separatist fighter.
On Wednesday, January 12, 2022, BIR elements got into the premises of the St Charles Lwanga Parish, Molyko, Buea, where brutally arrested and tortured Reverend Fr Tobias Bekong without a warrant. A video of the incident showed officers dragging the wailing priest on the rough ground. There are several instances of such torture, some recorded, and most not recorded.
The constant torture of suspects, which sometimes leads to death, violates Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person”. Article 5 further states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
On its part, 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.” In the case of the various victims of torture, these rights have been robbed from them.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which in its 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…” In the case of Yenkong and Adul Karim and others arrested for simply condemning a rights violator, they have not been given their right to appear before a court of law, but are instead tortured.
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.”
Article 4 states 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.” Paragraph (2) instructs that, “Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.” In Cameroon, authorities have not only failed to enforce punishment against torture, but have, through their inaction, encouraged torture.
By Andrew Nsoseka, JADE