February 6, 2023

Amnesty International urges Cameroon to release Abdul Karim Ali, peace activist detained without charge for more than four months

President Paul Biya of Cameroon (left) and detained activist Abdul Karim Ali
President Paul Biya of Cameroon (left) and detained activist Abdul Karim Ali

Amnesty International urged Cameroon on Thursday to release Abdul Karim Ali, a peace activist detained without charge for more than four months.

The human rights organization called on Cameroon to urgently provide the legal basis for Ali’s detention since August 11, 2022, or release him immediately.

“In the absence of information from the justice system what we know is that Abdul Karim Ali was arrested after he denounced torture committed and broadcast online by the leader of a pro-government militia in the south-west region of the country. If this is the only reason for his arrest he should be released immediately and unconditionally since his detention would stem solely from the exercise of his right to freedom of expression,” said Fabien Offner, a researcher at Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Regional Office.

According to Abdul Karim Ali’s lawyers, he was arrested on August 11, 2022 in Bamenda in the north-west without a warrant by gendarmes and was taken to the regional légion de gendarmerie where he was detained for 84 days, including being held incommunicado for several days, in violation of international and regional human rights norms. Being held incommunicado meant he was deprived of any contact with the outside world and denied the possibility of receiving visits from family and lawyers. He was detained in a cell with no window, deprived of food and water for several days, and had to use a single bucket both as a toilet and for bathing.

Abdul Karim Ali, 41 years old, was then transferred to Service Central des Recherches Judiciaires (SCRJ) of the SED (Secrétariat d’Etat à la Défense) in the capital city Yaoundé, where he is currently detained. He was taken to the military court building in Yaoundé on 7 November 2022, where he was kept in a mosquito-infested cell with others all day. He was returned to the SED late that night without establishing any charges against him or being taken into court.

Two others are currently detained at the SED with Abdul Karim Ali on allegations that they work as his drivers. Rabio Enuah is a cousin who was reportedly arrested in Bamenda on 23 August 2022 and detained in a cell at the légion de gendarmerie for 84 days before being transferred to the SED in Yaoundé. An acquaintance of Abdul Karim Ali, Sulemanu Yenkong, was reportedly arrested on 19 November 2022 in Nkwen, near Bamenda.

He was detained in several locations, and held incommunicado, before being transferred to the SED on 28 November 2022. In both cases, their lawyers have reported that the gendarmes who detained them asked for ransoms in exchange for their freedom.

Amnesty International said that in the absence of information from the justice system, both of them should also be released immediately and unconditionally.

The human rights group added that has learned that Abdul Karim Ali’s wife has received threats through anonymous calls, which have led her to flee their home. The calls warned her not to alert people outside Cameroon about his situation and asked her to bring her husband and family’s passports to the military who were detaining Abdul Karim Ali.

“The detention of Abdul Karim Ali is taking place in a period where the Cameroonian authorities continue to arbitrarily arrest and detain those who criticize the government or denounce human rights violations in the context of armed violence in Anglophone regions of the country. The authorities must immediately present a legally recognizable charge against Abdul Karim Ali or release him.”

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