March 27, 2017
CONCERN GROWS OVER MILITARY TRIAL
FOR DETAINED CAMEROON HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER
The arrest of human rights lawyer Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla in the Republic of Cameroon has sparked growing concern in legal circles as reports indicate that he may face trial in a closed military court.
The Bar Council is the latest legal body to call on the country’s President to ensure that the lawyer has a fair trial, following news that his trial date has been pushed back for the third time.
Arrested on 17 January without warrant after organising peaceful protests in West Cameroon, Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla has been denied communication to the outside world. His trial date has now been set for 7 April.
According to the latest reports, he faces charges including terrorism, rebellion, contempt of public authorities and attempting to incite civil war, some of which carry the death penalty on conviction.
In a letter to the President of the Republic of Cameroon, His Excellency Paul Biya, the Chairman of the Bar Andrew Langdon QC has warned that the use of military courts to try civilians in the name of counter-terrorism poses “a serious threat to the proper administration of justice.”
The Chairman highlighted the Government’s obligations under United Nations principles that military courts should not be used to try civilians, and that lawyers have the right to take part in public discussions and meetings without suffering professional restrictions.
In an open letter, the Chairman has written: “We urge the Government of the Republic of Cameroon to comply with its obligations under international law and to ensure that any trial is conducted fairly and in accordance with due legal process.”