Majority Cameroon prisoners still awaiting trialBy YUH TIMCHIA in Yaoundé | Monday, October 15 2012 at 17:37
About 80 per cent of inmates in Cameroon’s overcrowded prisons are pre-trial detainees due to excessively long trial waits, a study has revealed.
The study by the Cameroon branch of Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) revealed a 20 per cent increase in remand prisoners from a 60.7 per cent estimate by the International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS) in 2011.
ASF Cameroon wants authorities to end suspects’ continued serving of “illegal” and “unending” jail terms, which contravene Cameroon and international law.
“We 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,” the survey said.
A much-hyped New Criminal Procedure Code, based on the presumption of innocence with the burden of proof on the accuser, went into effect on January 1, 2007.
The new law placed limits on judicial and security forces and gave a measure of protection to suspected criminals.
“But many innocent people continue to rot in jail,” ASF Cameroon says.
Of the over 23,000 inmates in Cameroon, 14,265 were awaiting trial, as against 8,031 who had been convicted.
The country's 72 prisons have a capacity of 15,250, according to a 2010 US report on Cameroon’s human rights records.
Tough economic times since the 1980s have slowed down prison reforms in the central African nation.
A majority of Cameroon’s jails are old, overcrowded and filthy. Prison guards were far too few and ill-equipped.
The Douala New Bell Prison, constructed in 1935 to hold 800 people, holds over 35,000 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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