Lawyers defending jailed separatist leaders, Ayuk Tabe and Co. say there is need for government to revise conditions under which their clients and other detainees live.
Hosting about 400 inmates, the Kondengui prison, the lawyers say is inadequately equipped with four beds, one for diagnosis and three for admitted patients.
Recalling the May 8th riot in the facility, the lawyers say “on the checklist of their grievances were; disproportionate arrogance of the superintendent against detainees, abuse of awaiting trial duration by magistrates, late production of detainees before courts by the superintendent, denial of access to lawyers to meet their clients by the superintendent and most importantly the progressive prevalence of illnesses symptomatic to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting more than one hundred detainees who have not been tested since government drummed a vast programme to test Cameroonians including detainees.”
Their clients like many other inmates at the facility due to the Anglophone crisis they say share similar grievances with the rioting inmates at the facility. “Ten out of twenty six Southern Cameroonians incarcerated in Prison Principale Kondengui are among the more than one hundred detainees ill of fever, headache, light cough and body pains all of which, are enunciating symptoms of COVID-19. They are psychologically and morally depressed whenever they rewind the sad memories and manner several detainees suspected to have died of COVID-19 in neighbouring Prison Central Kondengui were ferried off nocturnally by the prison administration to unknown destination without the knowledge or consent of their family member” the lawyers reveal.
Despite this, they say the superintendent of the prison employs harsh measures to hush their clients every time they raise these genuine concerns. Even the strike did not stop this treatment as prison staff began offering them medications without carrying out any prior testing or diagnosing ailments.
“The administration began the distribution of chloroquine and some antibiotic without name tag, to detainees on Saturday May 09th, 2020 recommending them to swallow four tablets per day for seven days without formally administering the COVID-19 test to them.”
The poor state of the prison’s health facility they add is not the best. The defence counsel says this makes them fear for their clients if they get infected. This is made worse by overcrowding in the cells.
“We dread the worse for our clients if the pandemic visits that prison where three patients only can be admitted at a time… we urge the government to respect local and international instruments regulating the health of detainees especially at this critical moment when the United Nations and other rights organisations have recommended decongestion of prisons as one of the measures to fight the Covid-19” they state.
Despite rumours of COVID-19 cases recorded at the prison, government has remained silent, leaving relatives and friends of inmates worried.
Mimi Mefo Info