The government continued to restrict the activities of political opponents and journalists and to stifle freedom of expression. One journalist died in custody. Detention conditions remained harsh and often life-threatening. People engaging in same-sex sexual relations faced arrest and imprisonment. Members of the security forces implicated in human rights violations in February 2008 continued to enjoy impunity. At least 77 prisoners were on death row.
Ahead of elections scheduled for late 2011, fears grew of potential instability after 28 years of rule by President Paul Biya. Opposition leaders accused the President of undermining the powers of the electoral commission, known as Election Cameroon (ELECAM). Parliament, dominated by the ruling Democratic Assembly of the Cameroonian People (RDPC), passed a bill in March giving the government oversight of poll preparations through the Ministry of Territorial Administration – a task previously carried out by ELECAM.
In September, President Biya reshuffled his government and replaced senior security service officials.
Armed clashes in the Bakassi region continued during the year. On 18 March the government announced that 19 soldiers of the elite Delta Rapid Intervention Battalion had been convicted for “acts of brutality against civilians” following clashes in February in the Bakassi Peninsula in which 24 civilians had been injured. Insecurity increased off the Bakassi coast, with boats being captured by a group calling itself African Marine Commando, and sailors being held hostage or killed.
In May, a Cameroon-Nigeria mixed commission started further demarcation of a disputed boundary that was settled by a decision of the International Court of Justice in 2002.
The government was reportedly planning to abolish female genital mutilation in its revision of the Penal Code.Top of page
Dozens of former government officials and heads of state companies, some of them arrested during 2010, remained in custody awaiting trial on charges of corruption. Many of them claimed that the charges against them were motivated by political differences or jealousy.
The government sought to silence critics of its policies, including journalists and human rights defenders.
The government continued to curtail the activities of the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC), a non-violent secessionist group, whose members faced arrest and imprisonment. Non-violent activities of political organizations and civil society groups were similarly subject to official sanction.
The Penal Code criminalizes same-sex sexual relations and even the National Human Rights Commission refuses to recognize and defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Arrests, prosecutions and trials of gay men continued during 2010 on a regular basis. Those imprisoned were prisoners of conscience.
Prisons and other detention centres were overcrowded and conditions were often life-threatening. Medical care and food were often not provided or were inadequate. Disturbances and escape attempts were frequent, and several prisoners were killed during escape attempts. Prison guards were poorly trained, ill-equipped and their numbers inadequate for a large prison population.
Kondengui prison, which was built for 700 inmates, was holding 3,852 in August. Food, water and medical supplies were all in short supply. In one wing, known as Kosovo, there was not enough room for prisoners to sleep lying down. Another wing held mentally ill detainees who did not receive any psychiatric care.
Douala (New Bell) prison, with an official capacity of 700, held more than 2,453 inmates in August. Many of its inmates were in pre-trial detention and were held together with convicted prisoners. Some prisoners were held in leg irons.
Prisoners were reported to have died in Maroua prison because of the scorching heat, and in Ngaoundere prison as a result of cholera.Top of page
Government officials confirmed that no action had been taken against members of the security forces accused of human rights violations in 2008, when as many as 100 people were killed during protests against price rises and against a constitutional amendment that removed limits on presidential terms of office.Top of page
At least 77 prisoners were on death row, although no executions have been reported since 1997. There were concerns that a presidential decree issued in May to commute some death sentences to life imprisonment had not yet been fully implemented. Prisoners on death row were not informed why their sentences were not commuted.Top of page