Amnesty International has raised the alarm that leaders of the independence movement in the Anglophone region of Cameroon stand the risk of torture and unfair trials if extradited from Nigeria to their country.
Ten in number and members of the pro-independence Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC), they were arrested, allegedly by Nigerian security forces at an Abuja hotel last week when they were holding a meeting.
The Cameroonians at the meeting were said to be legally resident in Nigeria and were among other things, discussing the issue of people of Cameroon taking refuge in Nigeria.
About a week after they were arrested, they were said to have remained in detention, a situation Amnesty International said was against the law.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International said it gathered that the Cameroonian authority had sought for the repatriation of the men.
It was in this light that it raised the alarm that they might be tortured and given unfair trial if the repatriation bid succeeds.
“By holding these activists in secret, without charge, the Nigerian authorities are failing to respect both national and international law. If they are extradited to Cameroon, they risk an unfair trial before a military court and the deeply disturbing possibility of torture,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
He added: “Efforts to tackle the Anglophone crisis should always respect the law, and avoid restricting freedom of expression. Authorities in Nigeria should immediately disclose the activists’ whereabouts, allow them access to a lawyer, and unless they have sufficient evidence to charge them with a recognizable crime, release them immediately.”
Stressing that it would be illegal for the men to be extradited for political crimes, Amnesty International said in Cameroon, those charged with crimes related to national security were prosecuted by military courts without respect for due process.
The group said it had documented a widespread pattern of torture by security forces and intelligence agencies.
It said for example, in July 2017, the organisation published a report documenting more than 100 cases of torture of people accused without evidence of supporting Boko Haram.