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13.10.2020 Cameroon

Cameroon opposition leader still 'sequestered' after UN mission

By AFP
Kamto campaigning in 2018 before losing to Biya, a result he disputed.  By MARCO LONGARI (AFP/File)
LISTEN OCT 13, 2020
Kamto campaigning in 2018 before losing to Biya, a result he disputed. By MARCO LONGARI (AFP/File)

Cameroonian opposition leader Maurice Kamto said Tuesday he remained "sequestered" at his home despite a call by UN rights experts for his release from house arrest for calling for peaceful protests against longtime ruler Paul Biya.

The rights experts issued a statement on Monday calling for Kamto's release and that of dozens of others reportedly arrested during demonstrations on September 22.

Kamto is the chief opponent of President Biya, who has ruled the Central African country for 38 years.

"The (police) unit outside my house is still in place, and I have received no notification whatsoever," Kamto told AFP, adding that a police car was blocking his driveway.

"Kamto's house arrest could amount to a deprivation of liberty, in violation of his rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, as well as liberty and security of person," the UN statement said.

A team of around a dozen independent experts conducted a mission under the Special Procedures system on behalf of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Cameroonian authorities declined several requests for comment by AFP.

Kamto's lawyers said in a statement they were suing the state over his house arrest and that the trial would begin on Thursday.

"We are extremely worried about mass arrests of peaceful protesters and political activists who express dissent," the UN experts' statement said, calling on the authorities to "stop intimidating political activists".

They added that they were concerned over the "excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators".

Kamto officially lost to Biya in 2018's presidential election, and was arrested in January last year following a march protesting the vote. Biya ordered him freed nine months later under international pressure.

On September 18 of this year he called for mass protests to demand electoral reforms as well as a ceasefire in the country's insurgency-hit English-speaking areas.

Four days later, police crushed a demonstration in the country's economic capital Douala, detaining 93 protesters of whom 58 were still in custody as of Tuesday, according to their lawyers. They were among more than 500 people arrested across the country.

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