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The consequences of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention: the case of the buea central prison

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The right to be free from arbitrary arrest and illegal detention are some of the most fundamental human rights recognized by various international human rights instruments.

It is an important aspect of the personal liberty of an individual and therefore, every democratic country has guaranteed the principle of the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and illegal detention in its constitutions.

This study aims to examine the consequences of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention in the Buea Central Prison. To achieve this objective, a qualitative research approach was employed and both primary and secondary data sources were used.

Primary data was obtained mainly through semi-structured in-depth interviews whereas secondary data from different works of literature, legal instruments, reports and cases.

There are several key pieces of legislation in Cameroon that relates to arrest and detentions, most notably the preamble of the constitution and Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

Like the constitutions of other democratic countries, the Cameroon constitution has guaranteed the right to be free from arbitrary arrest and illegal detention as a fundamental human right in its preamble.

Nevertheless, the violation of this right by the law enforcement agencies is a common phenomenon in the Buea central prison. The study revealed that Police have arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals without sufficient legal grounds and contrary to procedures established by the Constitution and the CPC, these include: failure to inform rights and reasons of arrest and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; lack of legal representation in pretrial phase;

the existence of significant barriers to challenging the lawfulness of their detention in courts and the absence of compensation when their rights have been abused. Judges and prosecutors have also failed in preventing or ending arbitrary arrest and illegal detentions. Finally, the study provided possible recommendations to reduce arbitrary arrest and illegal detentions



1.1 Background to the study

1.2 Statement of the Problem          

There is a good enforcement mechanism of the protection of the right against arbitrary arrest and illegal detention at the international and national level. This is evident in various international Conventions and Declarations such as the universal declaration of human rights, and the African Charter on human and people’s right. Cameroon to this effect has ratified some of this international convention and the African Charter.

Cameroon has a good constitution which protects prisoners’ right. The preamble of Cameroon’s Constitution supported by article 65 and article 37 of the constitution is a constitutional guarantee to a prisoner’s right. Cameroon also has a good Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code that protects prisoners’ rights.

This notwithstanding, there is the continuous practice of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention in Cameroon, especially in the Buea Central Prison. Detainees arbitrarily arrested are taken from their areas of residents to congested prison camps, whereas, they are turned into labourers and victims of domestic violence in houses of prison administrators. Some are subjected to torture.

This violation is also manifested in the various forms of arbitrary arrest such as torture and the use of force. The practice of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention affects the protection of human rights in Buea Cameroon. The effects of this detention are on families and individuals. The government of Cameroon has failed to revisit their detention practices and the effects of these practices which are against the Penal Code and the constitution of Cameroon.

Malnutrition in the Buea central prison is a point to reckon with, most of these illegally detained persons suffer from malnutrition. Prisons are supposed to be rehabilitation centres but the common routine in Buea central prison is the violation of a prisoner’s right through torture.

The Cameroon National Commission for Human Rights and Freedoms which is the main body to punish perpetrators of violations of people’s right through arbitrary arrest and illegal detention is impeded in its duty in this respect. This is due to two reasons.

Firstly, the National Commission for Human rights and Freedoms is not independent of the government. This is evident for the fact that the government appoints its key personnel and funds the commission. With this scenario, it becomes difficult for the commission to report against violations that will lead to public disorder. Serious cases of illegal detention are therefore not reported. Secondly, decisions of the commission relating to human rights violation are not binding. As such, it does not deter.

1.3 Research questions

The questions which this research seeks to answer are:

  • What are the legal institutional and policy frameworks for the protection of the Right against illegal detention and arbitrary arrest?
  • What are the nature and types of illegal detention and arbitrary arrest?
  • What are the effects of illegal detention and arbitrary arrest in Cameroon?
  • What policy recommendations can be made to help Cameroon stop the arbitrary arrest and protect human rights?

1.4 Objectives of the study

1.4.1 General objective

The purpose of this work is to bring out the effects of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention, investigate the current alarming practices of violating prisoners’ rights in Buea Central Prison Cameroon, and to assess the mechanisms put in place to combat the practices.

1.4.2 Specific objectives

The specific objectives are:

  • To examine international and National legal instruments and policy framework for the protection of the rights of persons arbitrarily arrested and illegally detained
  • To critically examine the nature, types or forms of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention
  • To critically analyse the effects of illegal detention and arbitrary arrest
  • To make policy recommendations

1.5 Methodology

Since the objective of the research is to explore the actual consequences of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention, the researcher employed a qualitative research methodology. Documents were consulted from both primary and secondary sources. Primary sources consist of Treaties, Conventions, Declarations, Resolutions, Laws, Decrees, and decided cases. Secondary sources consist of books, commentaries, articles, reports, the internet and other sources dealing with the consequences of arbitrary arrest as a human right violation.

The method of data analysis used is qualitative in character, involving essentially the inductive[1] and deductive[2] processes of content analysis.[3] Through this method, documents concerning arbitrary arrest and illegal detention were carefully examined, compared and reviewed..

This method was selected because instruments and documents had to be examined and analysed in order to determine whether the right against arbitrary arrest and illegal detention is protected and respected in Cameroon. This method was equally selected because through the documents and instruments consulted, it helped to identify and examine the various institutions responsible for the implementation of the various policies and strategies adopted for the recognition, respect, protection and fulfilment of the right against arbitrary arrest and illegal detention

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