Human Rights watch in its latest report has questioned the fairness of the trial and life jail sentence slammed on Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and his fellow Ambazonian peers by the Military Court in Yaoundé on August 20, 2019.
Lewis Mudge, Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch says the military Court handed down a hasty verdict and sentenced the accused without giving them any meaningful opportunity to defend themselves.
“This process has been plagued by pre-trial abuse and serious allegation of fair-trial breaches that warrants independent and impartial judicial review, which we hope will happen under appeal,” said Mudge.
Human Rights Watch regrets that the trial was conducted in French without adequate translation though the defendants were entitled to a trial in English, their mother tongue and an official language in Cameroon. The trial according to the rights group took place after serious violations of the defendants’ right, whose lawyers accused the military judge of bias and threats to arrest lawyers for raising objections.
The rights group recalls that Ayuk Tabe and Co were arrested in Nigeria and forcibly returned to Cameroon in an extra judicial transfer condemned by the United Nations Refugee Agency as violating the fundamental principle of non-refoulement.
Speaking to Human Rights Watch, Fru John Nsoh, lead counsel of the separatist leaders, said since the trial of their clients started in 2018, all hearing focused on the peripheral procedural matter, confirming the cry of the rest of the defence team that they had no prior knowledge of the evidence presented by the prosecution.
Regretting that Ayuk Tabe and Co were tried at the military tribunal against their rights, Human Rights Watch Central African Director said, Cameroonian authorities should rather focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of its Anglophone population.
Mimi Mefo Info