DEFI Project : Sharing successful experiences of the defence of the right of detainees in Central Africa

 

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From the 26th to the 31st of January 2017, a platform to share experiences on the defence of the rights of detainees was held in Douala, Cameroon, as part of the DEFI project. Nine people participated in the event and represented their respective organisations : the Ligue des Droits et Libertés - LDL (Cameroon), Women’s Counselling Information Centre - WCIC (Cameroon) and the Voice of the Forgotten “La Voix des Oubliés” - LVO (Gabon). This event is part of a cycle of four events to share experiences organised by AEDH with the aim to develop good practices and to strengthen the capacity of Central African organisations.

In this first instance of sharing experiences, the participants addressed substantive issues linked to the defence of the rights of detainees in Cameroon and Gabon (the situation in prisons, applicable law, and profile of vulnerable detainees, action strategy, and relation to the penitentiary administration) as well as more general challenges such as communication, fundraising and the development obstacles of these organisations.

For Yveline Ntanfa, director of WCIC, "long provisional detention and poor living conditions of the detainees were common problems in Cameroon and Gabon". Free legal assistance for deprived people, although regulated by the Code of Criminal Procedure, is a problem is these two countries. The majority of people in prison are awaiting sentence, legal deadlines of detention frequently ignored and some people remain imprisoned for several years.

Each organisation also shared their action strategies in favour of disadvantaged detainees. For example, LDL explained how to identify the most vulnerable prisoners and detailed the procedure to collect data on the proceedings. LVO shared their outreach guide on the rights of detainees and raised awareness on the need for different types of support such as hygiene kits. After this instance, several participants said to be ready to implement the identified good practices.

For Augustin Ntchamande from LDL, "legal and judicial assistance could be reinforced by a humanitarian component". Soland Yenou from LVO expressed wanting to "review the assistance methods to detainees through a selection of prisoners, and to carry out an awareness targeting the population, for example through the legal clinics of LDL".

At the end, the participants expressed their content and showed their interest in the creation of a Whatsapp[1] group to stay in contact and to share information. Laure Yenou from LVO said : "the purpose for me was to get inspiration from other experiences to build a more structures, organised and perennial NGO. The event entirely fulfilled my expectation. I must say that I have learned a lot from other organisation, in particular LDL". As for WCIC and LDL, they contemplate creating a common project of judicial assistance and improvement of the conditions of detainees in Cameroonian prisons.

In March, two other events will take place: one focused on sexual violence and the other one on homophobia.

Joël Phalip

[1] Instant messaging application 

 

 

 

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