By Folegwe II Menky, March 6, 2017
Cameroon Journal, Yoaunde – Over 50,000 lawyers and some 8,000 paralegals in Canada have written to the Head of State, Paul Biya, urging him to free Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla. The demand came in a letter from the lawyers to the President.
The letter dated February 13, and signed by the Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, Paul B. Schabas, who is head of the outfit, called on Biya to comply with Cameroon’s obligations under international human rights laws, including the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
Citing some articles of the UN’s Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, the Canadian lawyers said “lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly.
“In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization.”
The Law Society of Upper Canada noted that it was brought to their attention Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla and Fontem A. Neba, President and Secretary General respectively of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium were arrested on January 17, after organizing ‘ghost towns’ – stay-at-home protests against “oppression, marginalization, and deprivation.”
Noting that Agbor Balla and others could face the death penalty for the charges leveled against them, to include terrorism, rebellion against the state, incitement of civil unrest, amongst others, the legal outfit demands the immediate and unconditional release of the Buea-based lawyer.
The Canadian Law Society also want Biya to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Agbor Balla as well as put an end to all acts of harassment against him and all other human rights lawyers and defenders in Cameroon.
Going by the Canadian lawyers, the government of Cameroon should guarantee the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments.
Since the letter was sent through the Civil Cabinet of the Presidency, President Biya is yet to respond satisfactorily to the Canadian lawyers’ demands as Agbor Balla and others remain incarcerated at the Kondengui Maximum Security Prison in Yaounde. Their case will again come up for hearing at the Yaounde Military Tribunal on March 23.