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Cameroon: Prisoner of conscience / health concern / cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment: Pius Njawe, journalist, director of Le Messager:

, رقم الوثيقة: AFR 17/001/1998

This prominent journalist and director of the independent newspaper Le Messager, who was arrested in late December 1997. His conditions of detention could pose a threat to his health. AI is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of this prisoner of conscience.

EXTERNAL AI Index: AFR 17/01/98
UA 07/98 Prisoner of conscience / Health concern
Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment 8 January 1998
CAMEROON Pius Njawé, journalist, director of Le Messager
Amnesty International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release
of Pius Njawé, a prominent journalist and director of the independent newspaper
Le Messager, who was arrested in late December 1997. The conditions in the
prison where he is being held could pose a threat to his health.
Pius Njawé was arrested on 24 December 1997 and detained by the police judiciaire
(the police investigation department) following an article in Le Messager two
days earlier by another journalist which questioned the state of health of
President Paul Biya. On 26 December Pius Njawé was charged with dissemination
of false news (propagation de fausses nouvelles) and transferred to the Central
Prison, New Bell, in Douala. His trial has been scheduled for 13 January 1998.
If convicted, he faces a sentence of three months’ to two years’ imprisonment
and/or a fine.
Amnesty International considers Pius Njawé to be a prisoner of conscience,
imprisoned solely because of his legitimate professional activities and in
violation of the right to freedom of expression.
Pius Njawé has been denied visits from members of his family, lawyers and
colleagues. On 31 December five members of the Committee to Free Pius Njawé
(Comité de libération de Pius Njawé) were arrested and held briefly by police
when they attempted to visit Pius Njawé in New Bell prison. On 3 January 1998
the security forces were reported to have surrounded the area around New Bell
prison to deter Pius Njawé’s supporters.
Prison conditions are extremely harsh throughout Cameroon and fall far short
of international standards for the treatment of prisoners. Both criminal and
political prisoners are held in conditions which deny their basic rights, which
pose a threat to both health and life and which amount to cruel, inhuman and
degrading treatment. Most prisons are severely overcrowded and sanitary
facilities are non-existent or inadequate. Health care and nutrition are also
seriously deficient. Disease is rife and there is a high mortality rate among
prisoners.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Since 1995 an increasing number of journalists have been convicted on criminal
charges and sentenced to terms of imprisonment for criticizing government
authorities. Attacks on freedom of expression in Cameroon continued and
intensified during 1996 and into 1997 as both legislative and presidential
elections approached. Prosecutions of journalists have appeared to be attempts
by the authorities to inhibit criticism of prominent members of the government,
those closely associated with them, or government policies. In some cases there
have been serious irregularities in judicial procedures.
Pius Njawé and other journalists working for Le Messager have been imprisoned
on several occasions in the past. In October 1996 he and a colleague, Alain
Christian Eyoum Ngangué, were convicted of insulting the President and members
of the National Assembly (outrage par injure fait au président de la République
ainsi qu’aux membres de l’Assemblée nationale). Initially only fined when the
case was first heard earlier in 1996, they had their sentences increased to
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fines and prison terms: Pius Njawé received six months and Alain Christian
Eyoum Ngangué one year. Pius Njawé was imprisoned in New Bell prison where
he was denied access to his doctor and medical treatment. He was conditionally
released after 17 days (see UA 250/96, AFR 17/06/96, 31 October 1996 and
updates). Alain Christian Eyoum Ngangué was arrested in January 1997 and
imprisoned for more than two months before being conditionally released.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters in
French, English or your own language:
- expressing concern about the imprisonment of Pius Njawé, whom Amnesty
International considers to be a prisoner of conscience, and urging his immediate
and unconditional release;
- requesting assurances that Pius Njawé is being treated humanely in prison
and in conditions which conform to international standards for the treatment
of prisoners;
- urging that he be allowed immediate access to members of his family, lawyers
and a doctor of his choice.
APPEALS TO:
President
Son Excellence M. Paul Biya
Président de la République
Palais de l'Unité
1000 Yaoundé, République du Cameroun
Telegrams: President, Yaounde, Cameroon
Faxes: +237 22 16 99
Salutation: Monsieur le Président de la République / Dear President Biya
Prime Minister
M. Peter Mafany Musonge
Premier Ministre
Cabinet du Premier Ministre
Immeuble Etoile
1000 Yaoundé, République du Cameroun
Telegrams: Premier Ministre, Yaoundé, Cameroon
Faxes: + 237 23 57 65
Salutation: Monsieur le Premier Ministre / Dear Prime Minister
Minister of Justice
M. Laurent Esso
Ministre de la Justice, Garde des Sceaux
Ministère de la Justice
1000 Yaoundé, République du Cameroun
Telegrams: Ministre Justice, Yaoundé, Cameroon
Salutation: Monsieur le Ministre / Dear Minister
Minister of Communication
M. René Zé Nguélé
Ministre de la Communication
Ministère de la Communication
1000 Yaoundé, République du Cameroun
Telegrams: Ministre Communication, Yaoundé, Cameroon
Salutation: Monsieur le Ministre / Dear Minister
COPIES TO:
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Dr Solomon Nfor Gwei, President, National Commission on Human Rights and
Freedoms, PO Box 20317, Yaoundé, Cameroon
Le Messager, BP 5925, 11 Boulevard de la Liberté, Douala, Cameroon
Cameroon Post, BP 1981, Yaoundé, Cameroon
The Herald, BP 3659 Messa, Yaoundé, Cameroon
L'Expression, BP 15333, 12 rue Prince de Galles, Douala, Cameroon
and to diplomatic representatives of CAMEROON accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 21 February 1998.

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