Following the decision to pardon and release 289 people arrested in connection with the unrest in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon, Marie Evelyne Petrus Barry, Amnesty International West and Central Africa Regional Director has said that the Cameroonian President, Paul Biya’s decision “is a welcome step and a catalyst for human rights change.
“Those released include human rights journalist Michel Biem Tong who will finally be reunited with his loved ones for the first time after nearly two months in detention.
“The release must not be the last in a country where many more people are languishing in jail simply for exercising their freedom of expression. We call on authorities to release them, including students Fomusoh Ivo Feh, Afuh Nivelle Nfor and Azah Levis Gob sentenced to 10 years for sharing a sarcastic joke on Boko Haram.
“Authorities should lay out clear steps to protect and respect human rights while guaranteeing that any wrongful detentions do not continue to take place.”
On 13 December, Cameroon’s Defense Minister issued a statement announcing that 289 people who have been arrested for offences claimed to have been committed during the Anglophone crisis will be released, after being pardoned by the President.
This clemency is granted to people whose cases are pending in military courts and who have been arrested for offences committed during the Anglophone crisis. The Minister indicates that it would be granted where the military authorities had taken into account “the relative gravity of the charges”.
The document also states that it would neither be extended “to criminals, murderers or other dangerous terrorists” nor to “those involved in commanding or planning the damaging security crisis which is currently happening in the Northwest and Southwest regions”.
While welcoming by all means the release, Amnesty International is calling on authorities to also release all those people who are languishing in jail only for exercising their freedom of expression including Fomusoh Ivo Feh, Afuh Nivelle Nfor and Azah Levis Gob who were jailed to 10 years based solely on the text of an SMS joke on Boko Haram. The High Court of Yaoundé found the three students guilty of “non-denunciation of terrorism related information”. The three young men remain in prison while over 310,000 people across the globe wrote to President Paul Biya asking him to free them.