Press Release: Belgian human rights defender illegally expulsed from Cameroon
January 18 2019:
Cameroon’s top human rights body condemns human rights violations committed against a member of a local farmers association (OFFGO) embroiled in land conflicts with an influential Cameroon businessman. CED calls upon the Government and European institutions to take immediate action for justice and redress.
The National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms (NCHRF)* released a damning report last week. After two years of research they concluded gross human rights violations against Human Rights Defender Jan Cappelle. He was targeted in his function as chairman of the OFFGO farmers association that supports farmers involved in land conflicts. The NCHRF finds Baba Ahmadou Danpullo, one of the country’s richest businesman, complicit in the gross human rights violations. The NCHRF calls for the authorities involved in the human rights violations to be brought to justice and for an official investigation into Danpullo’s land disputes in the North West Region. Danpullo is the owner of the tea and cattle ranch Ndawara Estate.
Samuel Nguiffo, Secretary General of the Centre for Environment and Development, says » Human rights defenders in Cameroon run extremely high risks. Not in the least because of serious abuse of power by local and national authorities. National Police and security agencies are expected to protect human rights, but instead sometimes contribute to violate them. The Cameroonian authorities need to immediately provide justice and redress to Jan Cappelle and step up their work with the European Commission to end impunity for human rights perpetrators. »
The NCHRF declares the arrest of Mr Cappelle arbirary and the detention abusive. The body concludes that the expulsion was « illegal’ and jointly orchestrated by the Divisional Officer of Mbengwi at the time, the Regional Delegation at the Criminal Police of the North West Region, the Border Police Division of the National Police (DGSN) and the Presidential State Intelligence agency (DGRE).
Jan Cappelle confirms « The Tudig community and OFFGO have suffered injuries and abuses that are severe and long lasting. This is recognized by the detailed report of the NCHRF. The recommendations are crystal clear and I expect the Cameroonian government, the Belgian embassy and the European institutions to follow up urgently so I can return to Cameroon and we can finally continue our community work to support farmers. »
The NCHRF made the observation that the local administrative and judicial authorities produced multiple trumped up charges against Jan Cappelle. The report identifies malice aforethought in their actions. The NCHRF concludes that the motive of the expulsion was « control over land ». The charges against Jan Cappelle came in reaction to a September 2015 report from traditional communities to the Governor of the North West Region about land grabbing. The Chief of Tudig village requested Jan Cappelle to assist with the redaction of the report.
For more information:
CED, Samuel Nguiffo firstname.lastname@example.org (English and French)
OFFGO, Jan Cappelle, (+32)4188.8.131.52, email@example.com (English and French)
The complaint with the NCHRF was partially supported by “Verdir”, a project aiming at supporting environmental defenders, and funded by the European Union. The project ended in 2018.
*The NCHRF is the Cameroonian National Human Rights Institution. It has been established by Presidential Decree in 2004. The Commission’s members come from a variety of civil society, including the Government, Judiciary, Parliament, the Bar association, the media, and non-governmental organisations. Its mandate includes the capacity to conduct investigations on the violation of human rights and freedoms.
The NCHRF, Sub commission on civil and political rights, adopted on October 31 2018, “Au sujet des conditions de repatriement du consultant belge Jan Joris Cappelle du territoire du Cameroun et des allegations de violation des droits des membres de l’association OFFGO”
The NCHRF, Report No 0998/17/NCHRF/RO/RBH/RS/nan. Report from the NCHRF North West Antenna, and adopted on 10 May 2017, “A report of the field investigation mission to Tudig and Mbengwi, of Momo Division, in connection with the repatriation of Mr Cappelle Jan Joris on the 13th of May 2016, a Belgian, conducted on the 17th and 18th of April 2017”