AN APPRAISAL ON THE RESPECT OF HUMAN-RIGHTS PROTECTION UNDER THE CAMEROON CRMINAL PROCEDURE CODE
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The Republic of Cameroon is a member of the United Nations and the African Union. It has ratified many UN Human Rights Conventions and thus has made binding international commitments to adhere to the standards laid down in these universal human rights documents. The United Nations affirmed their belief in fundamental human rights and the member states pledged that they would respect these laws and Cameroon being a member.
Right to a fair trial regarding a criminal proceeding, consists of set of guarantees for every person under investigation, trial, punishment, appeals and application for a re-examination. In other words it includes the whole process as determined under criminal material law and procedural law.
Cameroon belongs to the family of nations that recognize in the equality and dignity of human beings; an essential value that should serve as the foundation for the creation, interpretation and application of positive law. The preamble of the Cameroon’s Constitution is explicit about the protection of human rights. It establishes the right to fair hearing before the courts, and states that ,every accused person is presumed innocent until found guilty during a hearing conducted in strict compliance with the rights of defense.
During trials human rights are considered protected in so far as a given trial is qualified as fair. In a write up captioned ‘fair trial a nightmare in the judicial systems in Cameroon’ Barrister Atoh Walter M. Tchemi alluded to the evasive institution of a fair trial in Cameroon. He propounds that “the judicial system in Cameroon is handicapped by lack of an effective and independent judiciary and furthermore that the courts in Cameroon are instruments of injustice and unfairness. Consequently the fundamental principle of a fair trial can hardly be observed practically within the judicial system in Cameroon”.
The Cameroonian criminal justice system in the protection of human rights during trials has been greatly influenced by their colonial past. Prior to the independence of Cameroon, jurisdiction over the territory was shared between the United Kingdom and France under the League of Nations mandate issued in 1919. The northern part of British area became part of Nigeria while the Christian southern part joined with French Cameroon area. As a consequence of this, the country inherited a dual legal system including a part inheriting the Code Napoleon and the other Common law. The Cameroon legal system like most in Africa, is a relic of the colonial era.
The Cameroon Criminal Procedure Code was harmonized, in 2005 and came into force in 2007. The Criminal Procedure Code was initially to enter into previewed force on the 1st of August 2006 but actually took effect on the 1st of January 2007 to allow time for actors to abreast themselves with this novelty. Before the coming Code D’insructionCriminelle into force of the Criminal Procedure Code, the law applicable in the North West and South West (now Regions) was the Criminal Procedure Ordinance (CPO). Meanwhile, the French Speaking part of the country applied the (CIC). These two legislations were applicable in the English and French speaking zones of Cameroon by virtue of Section 68 of the constitution.
This Code lays down the principles and procedures involved in criminal trials. This law stipulates the rules which deal particularly with the investigation of offences, the search and identification of offenders, the method of adducing evidence, the powers of those charged with prosecution, the organization, composition and jurisdiction of courts in criminal matters, verdict, sentencing, the right of parties and the method of executing sentence.
The Cameroon Criminal procedure code has come to stay as a blend of Common law and Civil law systems, the Criminal Procedure Code of Cameroon has provided guarantees and safeguards for the rights of accused persons before a properly constituted tribunal. The novelties of this present Code as mentioned earlier must be properly applied and articulated so as to protect the fundamental rights of litigants. Fundamental human rights is in harmony substantially with core principles and doctrines postulated under the CPC .This legal text though advocating the fundamental rights of litigants apparently witnesses serious violations in the course of application during criminal trials.
Cameroon’s legal framework for the respect of fundamental rights of accused persons during a criminal trial is apparently worthy of appreciation to a greater extent. However, the respect and protection of the fundamental human rights of parties guaranteed under international human rights law and national legislations in criminal trials is a call for concerned. Core criminal trials rules, doctrines and principles are in harmony with universal human rights laws such as the Universal declaration of Human rights and freedoms (UDHR), the international covenant on civil and political rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Humans and People’s rights (The African Charter). Consequently, it is expected that at the point of application of substantive and procedural criminal law rules during pretrial, trial and post-trial fundamental rights of suspects and accused persons are to be protected as stipulated domestically and internationally. Unfortunately ,there are allegations of violations of fundamental rights of accused persons or suspects within the criminal justice system of Cameroon .One of the core areas of rights violations as alleged is that of fair trials of accused persons which encapsulates many other minimum rights guaranteed. Therefore, this research identifies a fundamental problem in the effective application of the law during criminal trials in a bit to protect and respect the rights of accused persons as guaranteed under the law.