Press Releases

City Bar Calls for the Immediate and Unconditional Release of Professor Maurice Kamto

The New York City Bar Association condemns the arrest of Professor Maurice Kamto, and urges the government of Cameroon to honor its international law commitments, and to immediately and unconditionally release Professor Kamto.

Professor Kamto is a distinguished and globally respected jurist; former member, Chair and Special Rapporteur of the International Law Commission of the United Nations from 1999 to 2016; and former Dean of the faculty of judicial and political sciences at University of Yaoundé II. In 2002, he successfully led a team that resolved the dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon over the territory of Bakassi Peninsula before the International Court of Justice so as to allow Cameroon to control that territory. Professor Kamto was appointed Deputy Minister for Justice of Cameroon from 2004 to 2011. After he resigned from the government of Cameroon, Professor Kamto created his political party, Cameroon Renaissance Movement (“MRC”) in 2012.

On January 28, 2019, Cameroonian authorities arrested Professor Kamto, along with over 200 members of his political party, who had organized peaceful protests called “White March.”[1] The aims of White March[2] were to protest against: i) official results of the 2018 presidential elections proclaimed by the Constitutional Council, which MRC claims were marred by irregularities[3], ii) the ongoing war in the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest regions,[4] and iii) widespread corruption that resulted in stripping Cameroon of its role in hosting AFCON 2019.[5]

During the White March, security forces used excessive force against peaceful unarmed civilians and fired live bullets at some, including prominent lawyers and supporters of Professor Kamto. The government argued that the crackdown on protesters was justified because the demonstrations were not authorized. The government also accused Professor Kamto of inciting activists to ransack Cameroonian embassies in Paris and Berlin, which MRC denied.[6]

After Professor Kamto was arrested in the city of Douala, security forces transferred him to the town of Yaoundé. For two weeks Professor Kamto was placed under “administrative custody” by special units at the Special Operations Group (GSO). These units usually deal with terrorism or organized crimes.[7]

Holding Professor Kamto largely incommunicado, GSO allowed only one visit by his family and attorneys. On February 12, 2019, Professor Kamto and over 100 people were referred to the Military Court of Yaoundé and charged with: rebellion, incitement to insurrection, hostility against the fatherland, offense against the President of the Republic and destruction of public buildings and goods, among other charges. Some charges carry the death penalty.[8]

Professor Kamto is being held at Kondengui Central prison of Yaoundé infamously known for its horrendous conditions of detention. Reports of torture as well as cruel and inhuman conditions by law enforcement agents have surfaced on many occasions. Our concern is heightened by reported systematic violations of accused persons’ due process rights by law enforcement and judicial authorities in Cameroon, including the use of unlawful and prolonged detentions, coercion, and torture.[9]

Cameroon has ratified international treaties protecting fundamental and political rights. They include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Charter of the United Nations (as affirmed by the Preamble of Cameroon’s Constitution), African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1989), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1986), and the African Charter on Democracy (2011).[10]  The Constitution of Cameroon confirms the acceptance of these fundamental principles, and the New York City Bar Association urges the Cameroon government to abide by them.[11]

The Military Court of Yaoundé is expected to sentence Professor Kamto, a civilian, on October 8, 2019. The New York City Bar Association joins the many organizations and institutions condemning Professor Kamto’s arrest[12] and adds its voice to those of the many institutions[13] and countries[14] calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Professor Kamto.


About the Association
The mission of the New York City Bar Association, which was founded in 1870 and has 24,000 members, is to equip and mobilize the legal profession to practice with excellence, promote reform of the law, and uphold the rule of law and access to justice in support of a fair society and the public interest in our community, our nation, and throughout the world.




[1] Cameroon: Peaceful Protesters Targeted in Violent Crackdown Must be Released, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL (Jan.28,2019), (Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Deputy Director, demands that Cameroon’s authorities “immediately and unconditionally release protesters detained simply for exercising their right to peaceful protest”). See also Cameroon: Post-Election Crackdown Escalates With Arrest of Opposition Leader Maurice Kamto, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL (Jan.29,2019) (labeling Professor Kamto’s arrest as “arbitrary” and declaring that the “arrest of Maurice Kamto and four of his staff supporters signals an escalating crackdown on opposition leaders, human rights defenders and activists in Cameroon”).

Amindeh Blaise Atabong, Cameroon Has Detained Its Main Opposition Leader as a New Anti-Government Crisis Looms, QUARTZ AFR. (Feb.1,2019),

[2] Franck Foute, Cameroun: Plusieurs Militants du MRC Blesses au Cours d’une Marche a Douala, (Jan.26,2019), See Press Statement, Remy Ngoy Lumbu, Commissioner Press Statement on the Recent Arrests and Detention of About 200 Members of Opposition Parties, (March 6, 2019),; Porte-Parole Maurice Kamto, National Resistance Plan, FACEBOOK (Jan. 25, 2019),

[3] Brenda Kiven, et al., Biya Wins Again in Cameroon as Crackdown Disrupts Anglophone Vote, GUARDIAN, (Oct.22,2018), (After ruling Cameroon over 36 years, Paul Biya wins another term amid allegations of fraud and low turnout in the Anglophone regions where separatist fights are ongoing. The Constitutional Council declared Biya winner with 71% of the votes. Kamto came in second with 14% of the votes). See also Josiane Kouagheu, Biya Wins Cameroon Election to Extend 36-Year Rule, REUTERS, Oct. 22, 2018,

[4] See Report, Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis: How to Get to Talks? (Crisis Group, May 2, 2019),; Cameroon Tops List of Most Neglected Crisis (Norwegian Refugee Council, Jun. 4, 2019).,

[5] Is a Financial Scandal Behind Cameroon’s Africa Cup of Nations Fiasco? REUTERS FOCUS (Nov. 1, 2019), (Cameroon has disbursed 1.80 billion euro (or US $1.98) of public funds to host 2019 AFCON but the global government body FIFA stripped Cameroon of its right to host the event on the ground that construction sites and amenities were not completed); Mark Gleeson & Nick Said, Cameroon Stripped of Right to Host 2019 African Nations Cup, REUTERS (Nov. 30, 2018),

[6] See Bineta Diagne, Rene Said: Au Cameroun, « le MRC doit jouer son rôle dans le respect des lois », RFI (Feb.1,2019), (in French); see also Cristina Krippahl, Cameroon: Opposition Vows to Defy Paul Biya’s Government, DW (Jan. 28, 2019)  (Cameroon has banned demonstrations and claims demonstrators are trying to tarnish the image of the country. After news of repression came to the diaspora, Cameroonians invaded embassies in Paris and Berlin); Cameroon: Maurice Kamto Charged with Sedition, Insurrection, ALJAZEERA (Feb.1,2009)

[7] Appeal in Support of Maurice Kamto, French Society for International Law (March 14, 2019)

[8] Cameroon: Opposition Leader and More than a Hundred Supporters Face the Death Penalty, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL (Feb.21,2019), See also Emmanuel Simh, CRM Press Release on the Inhuman and Degrading Treatment of Political Prisoners (Feb. 15, 2019) (Emmanuel Simh is an attorney defending Maurice Kamto and he is also  MRC 3rd National Vice President).

[9] Id. Press Release of Simh. See also Lewis Mudge, Cameroonian Lawyers Say ‘Enough is Enough’: Bar Association Denounces Rights Violations, HRW, Sep. 18, 2019, (Cameroon Bar Association staged a five-day strike to protest government’s interference in their work and violations of defendants’ rights. In their resolution, the Cameroon Bar Association complains that lawyers have “consistently been denied access to their clients and persons in the various [centers] of detention” and the “rights of accused persons protected by national and international instruments ratified by Cameroon are constantly and consistently being violated by judicial authorities,” including for example, through conducting trials in languages not understood by litigants, coercing confessions through the use of torture and inducements, and detaining accused illegally for prolonged periods.)

[10] Cameroon’s actions also violate the U.N. Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, including (a) the Principles of “Access to lawyers and legal services” and “Special safeguards in criminal justice matters” entitling Mr. Kamto, as a person arrested or detained, to be given prompt access to a lawyer and adequate opportunities to consult with a lawyer; as well as (b) the Principle of “Freedom of expression and association” entitling Mr. Kamto, as a lawyer, to “freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly.” U.N. Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Principles 1-8, 23 (Adopted by the Eighth U.N. Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba 1990),

[11] See Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon, Apr. 2008, Preamble,

[12] Appeal in Support of Maurice Kamto, French Society for International Law (March 14, 2019),; Letter by Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, Chair of International Law Commission (Jan.31,2019),, Declaration of the French Society for International Law on the Arrest of Professor Maurice Kamto, (Feb.3,2019),, Release, Sean D. Murphy President of American Society of International Law Concerning the Arrest and Detention of Professor Maurice Kamto in Cameroon (Feb.22,2019),, Press Statement, Remy Ngoy Lumbu, Commissioner Press Statement on the Recent Arrests and Detention of About 200 Members of Opposition Parties, (March 6, 2019),,

[13] Press Release, Arrest of Professor Maurice Kamto, Member of the Curatorium of the Academy (2019),, Press Release, Professor Marcelo G. Kohen, Secretary-General of the Institute of International Law Calls for Immediate Release of Maurice Kamto (Jan. 30, 2019),, Press Release, Diego P. Fernandez Arroyo Secretary-General of International Academy of Comparative Law (Aug. 28, 2019),; Declaration, Institute of International Law Declaration Situation Mr. Maurice Kamto (Aug. 26, 2019),

[14] E.g., European Parliament Resolution of 18 April 2019 on Cameroon (2019/2691(RSP) (Apr. 18, 2019); see also H. Res. 358, 116th Cong. Calling on the Government of Cameroon and armed groups to respect the human rights of all Cameroonian citizens, to end violence, and pursue a broad-based dialogue without preconditions to resolve the conflict in the Norwest and Southwest regions (2019),; see also Michael Tantoh, Cameroon: U.S. and Europe Turn Up the Heat on Govt, AllAfrica (March 6, 2019),; see also @AsstSecStateAF, TWITTER (Mar. 18, 2019, 1:16 PM)  (highlighting  concerns about the arrest of Maurice Kamto and others, and encouraging Cameroon to “ensure due process, peaceful assembly, and freedom of speech”).