Paris-based International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger has condemned the arrest and detention of Dr. Felix Agbor ‘Balla’ Kongho, President of Fako Lawyers Association who is being tried for leading the Anglophone Civil Society Consortium protesting against marginalisation of minority English-speaking Cameroonians.
The lawyer and other leaders of the Consortium are charged with terrorism, unlawful assembly, rebellion, revolution, and other offences. If found guilty, they may be sentenced to death under a controversial anti-terrorism law enacted in 2014.
The International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger, OAID, in a statement issued on March 6, reaffirmed its support for the Consortium leader. The association equally indicates that it is closely following the proceedings of the matter. The observatory states emphatically that just like every other citizen, lawyers have the right to freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of beliefs and freedom of assembly.
With allusions to the Consortium leader’s case, the organisation which is an initiative of the French National Bar Council, the Consejo General de la Abogacía Española (Spain) and the Consiglio Nazionale Forenze (Italy), restates that lawyers have the right to contribute to public debates. “Particularly debates on rights, administration of justice and protection of human rights, be part of or create local, national, and international organisations and take part in the organisation’s meeting;” the communique reads in partly.
The International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger is among many international and local organisations that have expressed concerns about the arrest and detention of the lawyer and other leaders of the consortium currently gnashing their teeth in the dungeons of dreadful prisons in Yaounde.
Some of these include the Law Society of Upper Canada , the AU human rights commission, Anglophone lawmakers in Cameroon etc. Other organisations have also condemned the internet shutdown that followed the arrest of Dr Agbor Kongho, Dr Fontem Neba, and Mancho Bibixy on January 17, 2017. But government officials have repeatedly argued its actions are in a bid to maintain public order. Their next hearing comes up on March 23.