Professor Maurice Kamto of Cameroon

Professor Maurice Kamto of Cameroon

Professor Maurice Kamto was arrested in Cameroon on 28 January 2019. He is facing death penalty. It is reported that he started hunger strike in protest. While in Europe there seems to be media reports about his situation, (see for instance:,there are no such reports in Japan. It is indeed a worrisome situation, and we are all deeply concerned.

Professor Kamto served as a member, Special Rapporteur and the Chair of the UN International Law Commission (ILC). He is also a member of the Curatorium of the Hague Academy of International Law and a member of the Institute of International Law (IDI). I worked with him in all these institutions. It was only in July 2018 that we attended the same panel of the ILC’s 70th anniversary symposium held in Geneva.

These institutions made declarations on Professor Kamto’s arrest.

International Law Commission, 31 January 2019 addressed to the Secretary General of the United Nations:

Excellency, I have the honour to write to you in my capacity as the Chair of the 70th session of the International Law Commission. I am doing so as a matter of urgency in relation to the arrest of Professor Maurice Kamto.
The members of the United Nations International Law Commission are deeply concerned about the arrest of the former member, Chair and Special Rapporteur of the Commission, Professor Maurice Kamto, in Cameroon on Monday 28 January 2019. Professor Kamto is a distinguished jurist, globally respected. The members of the Commission strongly support the expression of concern issued by the Spokesperson of the UN Secretary-General on 29 January, and call upon the authorities of Cameroon to ensure full and immediate respect for the fundamental rights, freedoms and procedural guarantees of Professor Kamto.
I would be grateful if the content of this letter could be made public through your Spokesperson. Yours sincerely, Eduardo Valencia-Ospina
Chair of the International Law Commission

Institute of International Law, 30 January 2019:
The Institute of International Law has learned with dismay of the arrest of its Titular Member, Professor Maurice Kamto, in Cameroon on Monday, 28 January. Professor Kamto is a distinguished colleague, former Member and Chair of the United Nations International Law Commission and a Member of our Institute since 2005. He has recently been a Rapporteur at our Institute on the issues of mass migration. His work culminated in the adoption by the Institute of the Hyderabad Resolution on Mass Migration in 2017.
Mr. Kamto has always been a defender of the rule of law and of justice. Without taking stance on the domestic political situation of Cameroon, we call on the authorities of this country for the immediate release of Mr. Kamto and for the full respect for his fundamental rights and freedoms.

Hague Academy of International Law, 30 January 2019:
The Hague Academy of International Law is deeply concerned about the arrest of Prof. Maurice Kamto, prominent member of the Curatorium of the Academy, Member and former President of the International Law Commission of the United Nations, in violation of his fundamental rights and freedoms. While the President and the members of the Curatorium of the Academy do not wish to comment on the internal affairs of the State of Cameroon, they firmly stress the need for the immediate release of Prof. Kamto, fervent advocate of international law, of the rule of Law and of democracy.

L’Académie de droit international de La Haye est profondément préoccupée par l’arrestation du professeur Maurice Kamto, membre éminent du Curatorium de l’Académie, membre et ancien président de la Commission du droit international des Nations Unies, en violation de ses libertés et droits fondamentaux. Sans que le président et les membres du Curatorium ne veuillent commenter les affaires intérieures du Cameroun, ils insistent fermement sur l’exigence d’une libération immédiate du professeur Kamto, fervent défenseur du droit international, de l’Etat de droit et de la démocratie.

The Washington Post
Cameroon should free Maurice Kamto

By Letters to the Editor February 8, 2019

The Feb. 6 front-page article “Cameroon’s lethal linguistic fault line” effectively documented the brutality of the attacks by President Paul Biya’s government on the Cameroonian English- speaking community and reported the arrest of human rights lawyer Felix Agbor Nkongho.

However, the article failed to mention the arrest in Douala on Jan. 28 by the Biya government of former presidential candidate Maurice Kamto, head of the Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon, and several of his supporters.

A respected professor of international law, former dean of the faculty of Juridical and Political Sciences at University of Yaoundé II, and former chairman and special rapporteur of the U.N. International Law Commission, Mr. Kamto is charged with offenses that include treason, inciting violence and disruption of public peace, and that could result in the death penalty.

He and his other jailed supporters are reported to have begun a hunger strike.

Mr. Kamto’s arrest has led to calls for his immediate release and concern for his well-being by the U.N. secretary general, the International Law Commission, Amnesty International, the Institut de Droit International, the Curatorium of The Hague Academy of International Law, on which Mr. Kamto serves, and many other international human rights groups.

The United States, through its ambassador in Yaoundé, should make clear that it strongly supports Mr. Kamto’s immediate release and that his continued detention will lead promptly to a comprehensive reevaluation of U.S. military and other assistance to the Cameroonian government.

Peter Trooboff, Washington, D.C.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of States Nagy offers strong support for Maurice Kamto’s release

March 5, 2019


Further to our prior exchanges concerning Maurice Kamto’s arrest and continuing incarceration in Cameroon, I am informed that at today’s interrogation before the Military Tribunal in Yaounde, Mr. Kamto argued that, apart from denying generally the charges against him, the Military Tribunal has no jurisdiction (competence) to hear the asserted charges against a civilian. Accordingly, the Tribunal’s Judge (Colonel) Michel should, Mr. Kamto submitted, rule on the jurisdictional objection before conducting any interrogation of a civilian. The Judge, with the assistance of the prosecutor, tried to convince Mr. Kamto that he should answer the Tribunal’s questions. Maurice did not waiver from his position that he would not respond until the Military Tribunal judge first rules on the objections to his jurisdiction. The judge did not rule and has apparently has not yet begun interrogation of the other 150 accused over whom the Military Tribunal also claims jurisdiction.

On a more positive note, please see the following encouraging report of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Nagy’s unequivocal and strong statement on March 4 reportedly on RFI in support of Maurice’s release:

Please note that in his next-to-last stop of his current Africa trip Secretary Nagy will be in Cameroon from March 17 according to his announced schedule:

“On March 17–18, Assistant Secretary Nagy will visit a U.S.-owned firm in Cameroon, discuss Cameroon’s role as a regional partner with government officials, and meet civil society. He will meet with members of the U.S. government’s signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders, the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI), in multiple countries.”

By making this good appeal for Mr. Kamto’s release well in advance of his actual visit to Cameroon on March 17-18, Assistant Secretary Nagy has given the Government of Cameroon an opportunity in advance of his arrival to avoid further criticism by ending Mr. Kamto’s incarceration at the scheduled March 7 hearing before the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Mfoundi.

To be sure Assistant Secretary Nagy may well be acting in part because of the many appeals for Mr. Kamto’s immediate release in which the recipients of this email along with many others have actively participated. At this point each of us who is in a position to do so should communicate with the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Congress, foreign ministries of governments worldwide and the Government of Cameroon to express support for the immediate release of Maurice. In addition, the policy that Assistant Secretary Nagy has announced should be made known to the many international lawyers and international legal organizations around the globe who have issued appeals in support of Maurice so that they may, as appropriate, urge that their governments adopt a similar supporting policy.

Let us continue to share information on Maurice’s situation and developments in Cameroon. Many thanks for your encouragement and ideas in our continuing collective efforts on Maurice’s behalf.

Peter Trooboff

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