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1.1 Background to The Study

The Cameroon legal system includes important aspects such as the principles and conceptions that underpin the administration of justice, the institutions through which justice is administered, and the manner in which legal rules, laws, and judgments are enforced.

The administration of justice is a field that is constantly evolving. Because we were operating under a traditional system in which each ethnic group was subject to the laws established by either the chief or the Fons, justice was entirely in the hands of the Fons and chiefs before the arrival of civilization in Cameroon.

These traditional leaders were given a great deal of power to settle disputes, pass laws, and determine the punishment for breaking the rules, and this continued until 1884, when Europeans colonized us and imposed their administrative policies on us. The Germans were first, followed by Britain and France after the Germans were defeated in the First World War.

Cameroon’s judicial organization, capacities, and jurisdiction are governed by Law N°2011/027 of 14 December 2011, which amended and supplemented Law N°2006/015 of 29 December 2006 on judicial organization.

Criminal justice is the process of bringing those who have committed crimes to justice. A series of government agencies and institutions make up the criminal justice system. The goals include offender rehabilitation, crime prevention, and moral support for victims. The courts, prisons, and police are the three primary institutions of the criminal justice system. Cameroon’s government has put in place legislation to regulate the criminal justice system.

In Cameroon, Ordinance No. 72/04 of 26 August 1972 modified by Law No. 2006/015 of 29 December 2006 on judicial organization organizes the courts charged with the deliverance of justice in the country.

The Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, Lower Courts for administrative litigation, Lower Audit Courts, Military Courts, High Courts, Courts of First Instance, and Customary Courts are among the courts responsible for administering justice in the country, according to Section 3 of that Law. The Special Criminal Court, which was established to combat corruption and misappropriation of public property in Cameroon, has been added to these courts.

In Cameroon, the Legal Department is in charge of prosecuting crimes. It is extremely important in the criminal justice system. The State Council leads the Legal Department in the trial courts, while the Procureur-General leads the Appellate Courts. The Legal Department has two major characteristics: indivisibility of action and subordination to hierarchy instructions.

“The Legal Department shall be indivisible,” according to Section 127 of the Criminal Procedure Code. As a result, any judicial act performed by a Legal Department Magistrate is presumed to be performed in the name of the entire Department.

This also means that legal officers assigned to the Legal Department may assist or replace other legal officers in prosecutorial duties in various State Counsel’s Chambers within the same Region.

In the Legal Department, there is deference to the hierarchy’s orders. All actions carried out by the officers in their respective chambers are directed and controlled by the legal officers in charge of prosecution at various levels of the court structure.

They have to answer to the hierarchy. Other legal officers in the chambers may be delegated some or all of these responsibilities. No legal officer may be assigned to a position that puts a senior legal officer under his command.

Between the legal officers in the same chambers, between the chambers of the Procureur General and all State Council Chambers in the same Region, and between the Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals, and all legal departments, there is a subordination relationship.

Legal Department may intervene at any stage of a criminal trial under Section 128 of the Criminal Procedure Code, under penalty of nullifying the entire proceeding and the decision.

Criminal Procedure Code sections 132 to 141 describe the functions of Legal Department in criminal justice. It is the responsibility of the Legal Department of the Appellate Courts to hear appeals. Criminal Procedure Code Section 137 states that the State Counsel shall direct and control the operations of officers and agents of the judiciary police, and that he may at any time visit the police or gendarmerie brigade in order to verify the conditions of detainees held there.

If he decides to release a person on his own initiative or pursuant to a habeas corpus order, he must do so immediately, or he will be prosecuted for unlawful detention against the judicial police officers in charge of the police station or gendarmerie brigade where the detention occurs.

As a judicial police officer, the State Council has the right to act at anytime and anywhere. It is stated in Section 138(1) of the same code that “The State Council shall be able to directly request the use of law and order forces in the exercise of his duties”

1.2 Statement of the Problem

When it comes to effective administration of justice in Cameroon, the judiciary’s independence is a major issue. There is also an issue with the adoption of archaic statutes, which were largely intended to foster a colonial society, and which are still part of our laws today.

For justice to be properly administered in the country, the principle of separation of powers must be strictly adhered to. In Cameroon, this is unfortunately not done. It is within the power of the Minister of Justice to halt at any time any court proceeding that is taking place through the Procureur General. Despite the fact that the country’s judicial organization law has set up courts with specific jurisdictions, civilians are routinely tried in military courts.

1.3 Research Questions

This research answers the following questions:

  1. What is the Legal Department?
  2. What role does the Legal Department play in the administration of justice in Cameroon?
  3. Is the Legal Department effective in administering justice in Cameroon?
  4. Are there any policy recommendations on the role of the Legal Department in the administration of justice in Cameroon?

1.4 Research Objectives

The objectives of this research are both general and specific.

1.4.1 General Objective

The general objective of this work is to examine the role of the Legal Department in the administration of justice in Cameroon.

1.4.2 Specific objectives

  1. To analyze what the Legal Department is.
  2. To examine the role played by the Legal Department in the administration of justice in Cameroon.
  3. To investigate the effectiveness of the Legal Department in administering justice in Cameroon.
  4. To make policy recommendations on the role of the Legal Department in the administration of justice in Cameroon.

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Further reading: The Force of the Cameroon Legal System

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