Majority of Cameroon's prisoners are awaiting trial, says Avocats sans Frontières

A study by the Cameroon branch of Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) revealed 60 per cent of prisoners are awaiting trial. reports Africa Review. ASF Cameroon wants authorities to end suspects’ continued serving of “illegal” and “unending” jail terms, which contravene Cameroon and international law.

Of the over 23,000 inmates in Cameroon, 14,265 were awaiting trial, as against 8,031 who had been convicted, the study found.

“We have noticed delays in the judicial process at the level of investigative bodies, for example. We met defendants who have already spent five years in custody, others who served the entire length of their sentences before being convicted,” ASF said. This is despite a new Criminal Procedure Code, based on the presumption of innocence with the burden of proof on the accuser, which went into effect on 1 January 2007.The new law placed limits on judicial and security forces and gives a measure of protection to suspects.“But many innocent people continue to rot in jail,” ASF Cameroon says.

The country's 72 prisons have a capacity of 15,250, according to a 2010 US report on Cameroon’s human rights records. The Douala New Bell Prison, constructed in 1935 to hold 800 people, holds over 3500 today with no additional structures.The prison has about 150 guards, whereas approximately 700 were needed.In 2007, many inmates went on strike to protest their poor detention conditions.


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