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Cameroon: Opposition leader and more than hundred supporters face the death penalty

Opposition leader Maurice Kamto is today due to be summoned by a military court on charges which carry the death penalty, as the Cameroonian authorities intensify their post-election crackdown on critics.

Kamto, the president of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (Mouvement pour la Renaissance du Cameroun-MRC) is the first of a group of 131 people arrested last month and charged by the military court with rebellion, hostility against the homeland, incitement to insurrection, offence against the president of the republic, and destruction of public buildings and goods, to be summoned by an investigating judge. They all face the death penalty.

Amnesty International considers the death penalty as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and a violation of the right to life.

Marie-Evelyne Petrus Barry, Amnesty’s West and Central Africa regional director, said:

“It is horrifying that the Cameroonian authorities are considering sentencing Maurice Kamto to death simply for daring to participate in a peaceful protest. He is one of many people who have been caught up in a wave of mass arrests as authorities attempt to silence their critics.

“As well as having their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly crushed, many of Cameroon's opposition members are now facing unfair trials by military courts. We are calling on authorities to end this ruthless assault on dissenting voices. Civilians should not be tried by military courts and should not face the death penalty for exercising their human rights.”

International and regional human rights bodies including the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights consider that military courts should not, in any circumstances whatsoever, have jurisdiction over civilians. 

Following his arrest on 28 January, Maurice Kamto, who was also a presidential candidate, spent two weeks in detention, during which time his lawyers and family saw him only once. He is detained at Yaoundé Principale Prison along with six MRC supporters and officials. The rest of the 131 are detained in a different prison. Amnesty believes that they should have never been arrested in the first place.

On 19 February, 12 of another group of 15 opposition members arrested on 26 January in Yaoundé appeared before an ordinary court. According to the prosecutor they had been arrested for attempting to participate in a banned demonstration. The hearing was postponed until 25 February.

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