By Macdonald Ayang, February 20, 2017
Cameroon Journal, Yaounde- At least 50 magistrates drawn from across the county are upgrading their skills in Yaounde on the promotion and protection of human rights at a time there are lamentations about gross rights violations by security forces in Anglophone Regions of the country.
The three-day workshop which wraps up February 23 is organized by the Ministry of Justice in collaboration with an Italian university known as the Sant’ Anna School of Advanced Studies.
Opening the workshop yesterday, the Director of Human Rights and International Cooperation in the Ministry of Justice, Justice Helen Galega, (sitting in for Minister Laurent Esso), said the workshop was an opportunity for the magistrates to better acquaint themselves with international and regional human rights norms in the administration of justice.
The Justice Minister’s representative said the rendez-vous was even more important given that legal and judicial officers, namely judges, prosecutors and lawyers, all play a central role in the protection and promotion of human rights which, she said, is key to the stability and growth of every true democracy.
The Director of the Sant’ Anna School of Advanced Studies in Italy, which is technically overseeing the workshop, said the importance of the training cannot be overemphasized as judges play a vital role in ensuring that fundamental human rights are respected. He said resource persons at the workshop are human rights experts with international experience and assured that they would do their best in making the session interesting and relevant to attendees.
Cameroon has over 1, 600 magistrates and a majority of them, Justice Ministry officials say, have very little knowledge about human rights issues. This workshop, they say, seeks to increase their awareness on such human rights norms and principles and how to apply them in the process of dispensation of justice.
The seminar on human rights, it should be said, comes in the wake of the lingering crisis in the North West and South West Regions of the country which has been characterised by several reports of gross human rights violations by security forces.
For instance, security forces have been accused by local and international rights groups, including Amnesty International, of torturing and arbitrarily arresting peaceful protesters in the Anglophone Regions since the Anglophone crisis started in November last year.
The ongoing seminar also comes on the heels of reports of overcrowded prisons across the country, inhuman treatment meted out on inmates, prolonged pre-trial detention periods for suspects as well as other assorted allegations of human rights abuses.
Although the regular training of judicial and legal officers annually is said to be hampered by financial constraints on the part of government, Justice Galega said the present seminar is just the first in a series this year by the Justice Ministry thanks to fruitful corporation ties between the governments of Cameroon and Italy.