May 19, 2017
The Law Society of Upper Canada expresses grave concern about the arrest and detention of Justice Paul Ayah Abine in Cameroon.
It has come to the Law Society’s attention that on January 21, 2017, Justice Paul Ayah Abine, a sitting judge on the Supreme Court of Cameroon, was arrested at his home in the city Yaoundé by six heavily armed men from the Secretariat of State for Defence (“SED”). The men, who had no arrest warrant, threatened violence if the Justice attempted to resist. The Justice was also prevented from making or receiving any calls during his arrest. Subsequently, fellow judges at the Supreme Court have openly denounced the arrest of their colleague on the grounds that the arrest contravened various provisions of Cameroon’s Code of Criminal Procedure.
Reports indicate that Justice Paul Ayah Abine has continued to face procedural issues in the months that followed his arrest. For instance, authorities failed to promptly serve documents pertaining to the Justice’s case and relay the charges brought against him to his lawyers. Rather, it was only at the Justice’s first court appearance on March 16, 2017 that both he and his lawyers learned that he was facing charges of terrorism, secession, “rebellion against the State” and “propagation of false information”.
All of the habeas corpus applications that have been made before various courts (including the Supreme Court of Cameroon), seeking the immediate release of Justice Paul Ayah Abine from unlawful detention, have been denied. Consequently, the Justice, whose health is reportedly deteriorating, continues to be held in detention.
It is widely believed that the Justice’s arrest and ongoing pre-trial detention is connected to his advocacy for Anglophone rights in Cameroon. The Justice was a supporter of the now-defunct Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (“CACSC”). The CACSC was outlawed by the government on January 17, 2017, which was also the date on which its President, lawyer Felix Agbor Balla, was arrested. The Law Society intervened on behalf of Felix Agbor Balla in February 2017.