ON — 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
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
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.
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
In light of these circumstances, the Law Society urges the
Government of Cameroon to comply with Cameroon’s obligations under
international human rights laws, including the United Nations’ Basic
Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.
Articles 1 to 6 of
the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary state:
- The independence of the judiciary shall be guaranteed by the State and
enshrined in the Constitution or the law of the country. It is the duty of all
governmental and other institutions to respect and observe the independence of
- The judiciary shall decide matters before them
impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any
restrictions, improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats or
interferences, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason.
- The judiciary shall have jurisdiction over all issues of a judicial nature
and shall have exclusive authority to decide whether an issue submitted for its
decision is within its competence as defined by law.
- There shall not
be any inappropriate or unwarranted interference with the judicial process, nor
shall judicial decisions by the courts be subject to revision. This principle
is without prejudice to judicial review or to mitigation or commutation by
competent authorities of sentences imposed by the judiciary, in accordance with
- Everyone shall have the right to be tried by ordinary courts
or tribunals using established legal procedures. Tribunals that do not use the
duly established procedures of the legal process shall not be created to
displace the jurisdiction belonging to the ordinary courts or judicial
- The principle of the independence of the judiciary entitles
and requires the judiciary to ensure that judicial proceedings are conducted
fairly and that the rights of the parties are respected.
Society urges the Government of Cameroon to:
and unconditionally release Justice Paul Ayah Abine;
- immediately and
unconditionally withdraw all charges against Justice Paul Ayah Abine;
- guarantee all of the procedural rights that should be accorded to Justice
Paul Ayah Abine in accordance with his right to a fair trial;
that Justice Paul Ayah Abine is afforded regular access to his lawyer(s),
family, and adequate medical care;
- put an end to all acts of
harassment against Justice Paul Ayah Abine and all other advocates of
Anglophone rights in Cameroon;
- guarantee in all circumstances the
physical and psychological integrity of Justice Paul Ayah Abine;
- ensure that all judges in Cameroon can carry out their professional duties
and activities without fear of reprisals, physical violence or other human
rights violations; and
- ensure in all circumstances respect for human
rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights
standards and international instruments.
*The Law Society of
Upper Canada is the governing body for more than 50,000 lawyers and 8,000
paralegals in the province of Ontario, Canada. The Treasurer is the head of the
Law Society. The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession
in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of
the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the
rule of law.
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For more information,
please contact Susan Tonkin, Communications Advisor – Media Relations, at
416-947-7605 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Law Society of Upper Canada
Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario, M5H 2N6
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