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Why African Court Ordered Release Of Atangana Mebara 

By Yerima Kini Nsomcartoon 1725

The trial of the former Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic, Jean Marie AtanganaMebara, was fraught with so many irregularities.

It was replete with the violation of the rights of the defence and political undertones that led to a travesty of justice.This is partly the ruling that the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, an arm of the African Union, AU, delivered on the Atangana Mebara case recently.

It was on account of this ruling that the Commission, which is also known as the African Court, ordered the State of Cameroon to release Atangana Mebara and pay him FCFA 400 million for illegal imprisonment. In a 45-page ruling, the court gives the State of Cameroon a deadline of six months to hearken to the decision.

It holds that Atangana Mebara, who they say is a political prisoner, is a victim of arbitrary imprisonment that runs counter to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. The decision of the African Court fell like a bombshell on April 20, a few days after the Supreme Court of Cameroon had rejected Mebara’s appeal on the case.

The Commission’s ruling is the logical outcome of a petition the former Minister filed to the institution on July 26, 2012 following the upsurge of hiccups in his trial on account of embezzlement of public funds.

In the petition, the former Minister of Higher Education, who has been in Kondengui since August 2008, took exception to the fact that he was denied freedom after the Centre Court of Appeal acquitted him in May 2012. He said the lower court slammed a 15 year jail term on him on the controversial case bordering on the purchase of the Presidential plane. That verdict fell on him in 2012. He had already bagged a 20-year jail term on the case of plane leasing by the defunct Cameroon, CAMAIR.

After receiving the petition, the African Court declared that it was justifiable on June 6, 2014. The quasi-legal arm of the AU holds that it did careful examination of Mebara’s petition, his trial and declarations of Cameroon officials on the issue before picking holes with the case.

The Court diagnosed the violation of the rights of defence, lack of impartiality by the judges, the violation of the security rights of the accused, the total disregard of the principle of presumption of innocence as well as undue delay in the trial process.

The Court also considered partisan declarations by the former Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals, Amadou Ali, and the Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, to drive home the point that the executive was putting pressure on the judicial authorities to slam the former Minister at all costs. The African Court decision is binding on the Cameroon authorities given that President Biya’s country had long ratified the AU treaty. Cameroon authorities are yet to react to the ruling.

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