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ABA President Judy Perry Martinez Statement Re: Reported Death of Cameroon Journalist Samuel Ajekah Abuwe, Also known As “Samuel Wazizi”

WASHINGTON, June 5, 2020 – The American Bar Association is deeply disturbed by the death of Cameroonian journalist, Samuel Wazizi, who died in military custody in Yaoundé.

The Cameroon government through the Ministry of Defense in a public radio broadcast confirmed today that Wazizi died August 17, 2019, from an illness. Wazizi had not been seen since his transfer into military custody on August 7, 2019, and authorities had refused to grant his lawyer and family, who still believed him to be alive, access to him in detention or to bring him before a court for a formal indictment. The announcement comes following increased pressure by civil society, including the Cameroon Journalists Trade Union and the Cameroon Association of English-Speaking Journalists, for confirmation of Wazizi’s status in response to earlier press reports alleging Wazizi had died from torture-induced injuries.

The ABA Center for Human Rights (CHR), which had been monitoring the court proceedings in Wazizi’s case, recently released a preliminary trial observation report in which CHR staff found that Cameroon had flagrantly violated regional and international human rights law by failing to formally charge the journalist or have him appear in any court of law. The report also highlighted how regional and international human rights bodies have found that prolonged incommunicado detention heightens both the likelihood of torture and maltreatment of detainees.

The ABA calls on the Cameroon government to immediately undertake a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances leading to his death as well as the handling of the criminal proceedings relating to his case.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.

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