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U.N. Body Declares Marafa Hamidou Yaya Detained in Violation of International Law
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has ruled that the Republic of Cameroon's imprisonment of political prisoner, Marafa Hamidou Yaya, constitutes arbitrary detention in violation of international law.
By: U.S. Friends of Marafa Committee
Marafa Hamidou Yaya's attorney, Professor Ndiva Kofele Kale, a legal academic and practitioner [member of the Cameroon Bar and licensed to practice before the Supreme Courts of the United States and the State of Illinois] who focuses on Human Rights Protection and International Criminal Law, cited the Government of Cameroon before the U.N. Working Group in June 2015 for violating his client's right to a fair trial among other internationally-
The United Nations body has demanded that Mr. Marafa be released immediately and be awarded compensation by the GOC for the harm caused by being deprived of his liberty. The Working Group established that Marafa's detention violates Articles 9 and 10 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights as well as Articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In its decision the WGAD recommends that if the Cameroon Government can come up with legitimate grounds for a new trial then Marafa should be given one where all his due process rights will be scrupulously respected. It urged President Biya's government to take diligent steps to address Marafa's failing health which is worsening to the point of becoming irreversible. It then referred the decision to Monica Pinto, the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, for appropriate action.
Asked to comment on the decision, Professor Kale had this to say:
"The decision of the Working Group vindicates my client and confirms what he has always said that he is innocent of all the charges leveled against him. But before professional talking heads spin this momentous decision out of control, let me make note of the following three points. First, unlike the Thierry Atangana and Lydienne Eyoum cases where the Cameroon Government did not bother to file any pleadings, in this case the Government not only filed but even requested a 60 day extension to prepare its reply to my preliminary submission. Both the Government's and the complainant's submissions were backed by supporting documents. As a matter of fact these documents were so voluminous that they contributed in prolonging the deliberations of the Working Group. The point here is that this is not a default judgment but the reasoned outcome of a contested dispute where both parties were allowed to lay out their case. And the six distinguished jurists who comprise the Working Group had before them the same set of documents as the prosecutors who indicted Marafa; the judges of the Mfoundi High Court who declared him guilty and the venerable justices of our Supreme Court who confirmed the judgment of the lower court. Yet after reviewing the same evidence, the panel of jurists on the Working Group came to the opposite conclusion! How did our jurists get it wrong? Perhaps it is the search for an answer to this question that the Working Group decided to refer their decision to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges for further probing. In any event, it does not speak well of Cameroon's judiciary as this referral now puts in doubt its vaunted claims of independence and impartiality. My second observation is that inasmuch as Cameroon is a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, she is legally bound by this decision and cannot refuse to execute it. Finally, it remains my hope that President Biya will do the right thing and instruct his Government to abide by the UN ruling against it and take the steps that are necessary to bring Mr. Marafa's arbitrary and unjust detention to an end. At issue here is Cameroon's willingness to respect the Rule of Law not only in theory but in actual practice as well. It must demonstrate evidence of that willingness by resisting the temptation of aligning itself with those rogue states that flout the decisions of international tribunals and by so doing become complicit in weakening the global/international community's efforts to protect some of the most vulnerable victims of human rights violations!"
Under the authority of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the WGAD was established in 1991 to investigate and adjudicate whether states are in compliance with their international human rights obligations. It receives submissions from the individual complainant and the respondents (the states), and decides whether the case amounts to arbitrary (that is to say unlawful, or prohibited) detention. It will be recalled that the WGAD had earlier ruled against the Cameroon Government in Michel Thierry Atangana Abega v. Cameroon, WGAD, Opinion No. 38/2013, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/WGAD/2013/
Zena Crenshaw-Logal, Coordinator
U.S. Friends of Marafa Committee