RSF seeks urgent UN action as Cameroonian journalist turns 72 in prison
As Cameroonian journalist Amadou Vamoulké “celebrates” his 72nd birthday today in so-called “preventive” detention, in which he has now spent more than 2,000 days, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its appeal to the UN to do everything possible to obtain his release given his extremely fragile state of health and urgent need of treatment.
As well as spending his birthday like most days, in the main prison in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, Vamoulké is also due to spend part of it at the Special Criminal Court (TCS) for his 99th appearance there since his arrest in July 2016. Because of the imminent threats to his health, RSF has referred the case to the urgent attention of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, nearly two years after an initial urgent appeal that went unanswered.
RSF has asked the Special Rapporteur to intervene as soon as possible in favour of an emergency evacuation for medical reasons, and has provided details of Vamoulké’s extreme vulnerability due to his age, his poor conditions of detention and the serious neurological illness diagnosed in September 2019. And RSF reminds the Special Rapporteur that, despite medical reports attesting that Vamoulké's condition requires urgent and appropriate care that cannot be provided in Cameroon, he has repeatedly and deliberately been refused such care by the Cameroonian authorities.
“As Amadou Vamoulké spends another birthday in prison, we urge the UN to press the Cameroonian authorities to release him before it is too late,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The authorities continue to ignore repeated calls for this journalist’s release despite the extreme fragility of his state of health, his age and his imprisonment during a global pandemic. The rapid spread of Covid-19 in Cameroon’s overcrowded prisons and his status as a vulnerable person with regard to this virus expose him to the possibility of irreparable damage to his health and constitute grounds for his immediate release.”
Vamoulké has spent more than five and a half years in “provisional” detention since his arrest on 29 July 2016 on the basis of claims that he misspent government funds as director-general of the state radio and TV broadcaster CRTV. Despite nearly 100 hearings, all adjourned, prosecutors have been unable to produce any evidence or testimony to support these allegations.
RSF has taken many initiatives with both Cameroonian and international authorities with the aim of obtaining this journalist's release. Following an RSF referral, his detention was deemed to be arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in June 2020. In this decision, the Working Group also said he had been deliberately denied medical care and announced that it was submitting the case to the Special Rapporteur on the right to health because of the urgency of his medical situation. RSF had already contacted this Special Rapporteur in May 2020. However, despite these requests and the urgency of the situation, no response has so far been provided by the Special Rapporteur.
Cameroon is ranked 135th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.