The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has cast doubts on the legal proceedings against Cameroonian human rights activist Nasako Besingi.
In a statement that should prompt unease among the international donor community, and especially the EU, the Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Reine Alapini Gansou, expressed concerns about the allegations that had been levelled against Nasako, the director of Struggle to Economise Future Environment (SEFE).
Besingi has defended local communities for many years in the context of a large-scale palm oil project by the Herakles Farms. He has been physically assaulted, prosecuted (FW200) and convicted twice for mobilising communities by distributing T-shirts.
The Special Rapporteur called on the Government of Cameroon to fulfil its obligations to uphold the rights of human rights defenders in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and other regional and international legal instruments.
She asked the government to ensure justice and to protect the security of Nasako and all human rights defenders in Cameroon so that they are able to carry out legitimate activities without fear of reprisal.
The NGO community has repeatedly drawn attention to the legal intimidation of activists in Cameroon fighting agri-business projects that divest populations of their lands (FW200; FW209, FW210). Now the African Commission has joined them in doing so.
The EU must act on the Special Rapporteur’s call, by addressing the insecurity and harassment of human and environmental rights activists with its Cameroonian counterpart, and stepping up the implementation of existing EU guidelines on human rights defenders.
The May VPA Joint Implementation Committee provides an opportunity for the EU and Government of Cameroon to discuss these concerns.