The Cameroonian judiciary, together with Regional Delegates of Penitentiary Administration, is set to weed out lingering mal-practices from its landscape, notably illegal detention. Contextually, illegal detention relates to abusive police custody and remand warrants. This was a fundamental objective at a two-day annual conclave of Heads of Courts of Appeal and Regional Delegates of Penitentiary Administration in Cameroon. As usual, the high-profile gathering that held in the Conference Room of the Ministry of Justice in Yaoundé, was presided at by the Minister of State, Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals – Laurent Esso. The justice boss was flanked by the First President of the Supreme Court, Daniel Mekobe Sone, the Procureur General of the said institution, Ndjodo Luc, the Minister Delegate to the Minister of Justice, Prof. Jean Pierre Fogui and the Secretary of State to the Minister of Justice in Charge of Penitentiary Administration, Doh Jerome Penbaga.
Minister Esso initiated his opening speech with a minute of silence in memory of late Mrs Essomba Josette Nicole Ripault, Inspector General of Judicial Services. In continuation, the Minister highlighted thus: “Our deliberations will therefore enable us focus on these important issues because the law has provided for the setting up of a Commission that can award financial compensation to the victims of illegal detention”. According to him, the main points of the gathering had not been chosen haphazardly, owing to the fact that: 1) the President of the Republic, His Excellency Paul Biya, is preoccupied with individual freedoms, and: 2) Cameroon being a signatory to international instruments obliging the protection of human rights.
The Minister of State, Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals, hammered on the urgency to raise awareness among respective authorities, regarding police custodies and remands in custody. Such, in his view, would go a long way to ameliorate the status quo.
From Monday 10th to Tuesday 11th December, 2018, participants, among other issues, deliberated on modalities for the implementation of financial compensation to victims of illegal detention, given that the commission had been set up at the Supreme Court. Besides, the Procureur General at the Centre Court of Appeal, Ntamack Jean Fils Klébert, the President of the South West Court of Appeal Bechem Eyong Eneke and Inspector at the Inspectorate General of Judicial Services, Bongueno Jean Marie, took turns for presentations on the theme: “Illegal detention from abusive police custody and remand warrants: laws, state of affairs and possible preventive measures and remedies”. Mr Watchueng Jean Michel, Inspector General of Penitentiary Administration, rather zoomed on the role of Penitentiary Administration vis-à-vis the preceding subject.
At the end of discussions, participants were unanimous on the fact that illegal police custody and remands in custody, only result from violations of the law. During his closing remarks, Minister Laurent Esso admonished each and every one to meticulously apply pertinent provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code. He urged stakeholders of the justice chain to ensure the scrupulous effectuation of conclusions once they return to their respective regions and jurisdictions. The recommendations underscored by the Minster included the rapid exchange of information between the courts and prison registries, and the intensification of controls of remand in police custody and remand in custody. In this light, actors would be expected to sensitise wielders of justice, prison warders, wardresses and concerned communities.
The 2018 annual assembly of Heads of Courts of Appeal and Regional Delegates of Penitentiary Administration was marked by the award of medals to outstanding workers across the board. The exercise happening for the first time on the side-lines of this meeting, was co-administered by the Minister of State, Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals, the Minister Delegate and the Secretary of State in Charge of Penitentiary Administration. Seven persons were decorated with the Medal of the Order of Valour, nine were recipients of the Medal of the Cameroon Order of Merit, two were adorned with Order of Merit of the Public Force, while two others bagged the Medal of Honour of Work. This activity was spiced by an atmosphere of fanfare masterminded by playbacks and animation by some three Cameroonian musicians. This too was another innovation as far as the 2018 meeting of Heads of Courts of Appeal and Regional Delegates of Penitentiary Administration was concerned.
Shortly after the closing ceremony on Tuesday 11th December, and under an atmosphere of camaraderie, coordinated group photographs were taken. The gesture was aimed at immortalising the 2018 annual assembly of Heads of Courts of Appeal and Regional Delegates of Penitentiary Administration. The two-day conclave undoubtedly left observers with the impression that Cameroon’s Ministry of Justice is resolute in moving forward, and would stop at nothing, in rendering due justice to Cameroonians.