Cameroon: IGOHR Condemns the 10 years Jail Sentence for Radio France International Correspondent Journalist Ahmed Abba
The International Gulf Organization for Human Rights (IGOHR) condemns the perplexing decision by a Cameroonian military tribunal which sentenced a journalist to 10 years in prions on terrorism related charges. The organization urgently calls on the tribunal to immediately revoke the sentence and reevaluate its decision in line with international human rights instruments.
Ahmed Abba – a Cameroonian correspondent journalist for Radio France International (RFI) – was recently sentenced to 10 years in jail by a military court in Yaoundé, Cameroon for reporting on the activities of the Boko Haram extremist group in the northern part of the country. He is also required to pay a sum equivalent to €85,000 for his involvement in terrorist activities. He was convicted on charges of non-denunciation of terrorism and laundering of the proceeds of terrorist acts for which Mr. Abba has vehemently denied. Abba may also be facing a death penalty based on a controversial law Cameroon introduced in 2014 which includes capital punishment for involvement in terror attacks or complicity in terrorism. The incomprehensible decision by the military tribunal comes after Abba has been detained for two years and is believed to have been tortured while in detention.
The International Gulf Organization for Human Rights believes that the court’s judgement as well as its treatment of Mr. Abba during detention are a violation of his rights and fundamental freedoms as underlined in several human rights instruments and treaties. The rights to freedoms of expression and providing of information as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights provides journalists with the legal impetus to report on issues threatening the peace and security of the general public such as the terrorist activities perpetrated by the Boko Haram extremist group. The above human rights covenants as well as the International Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment clearly prohibits State Parties from using torture and ill-treatment to retrieve information from those under their custody. Cameroon has ratified and is a State Party to these conventions but it has failed to respect its obligations to promote the universal respect for, and observance of Mr. Abba’s human rights and fundamental freedoms in line with these covenants.
Since 2014, Cameroon has been battling with the insurgency of the terrorist organization Boko Haram which was founded in the neighboring country of Nigeria. but the group’s militants have extended their activities to Cameroon’s northern region and have carried out numerous murderous raids which have caused thousands of civilian deaths and several others displaced while insulting fear and terror among the population. Journalists in the region have not only faced challenges in reporting on the activities of this extremist group but have equally struggled with the limits to their freedom of expression imposed on them by controversial laws such as the one passed by the Cameroon parliament in 2014.
Thus, IGOHR calls on the Cameroonian government to immediately revoke its judgement and sentence on Mr. Abba’s case and to reexamine the decision while respecting the fundamental rights of the journalist. The organization equally urges the Cameroonian authorities and lawmakers to review its law on terrorism which seems to infringe on the basic rights of journalists and media personnel who despite all odds strive to provide information on the situation in the fight against terrorism in the region. IGOHR also calls on the UN Security Council and its peace keeping missions in Africa to work collaboratively with Cameroon and its neighboring allies to augment their efforts in combating terrorism in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa.