RSF calls for urgent UN action as Cameroonian journalist celebrates 72 years in prison

As Cameroonian journalist Amadou Vamoulké today “celebrates” his 72 years in so-called “preventive” detention, in which he has now spent more than 2,000 days, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for the UN to she is doing everything possible to obtain his release given his extremely fragile state of health and his urgent need for treatment.

In addition to spending his birthday like most of the time, in the main prison of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, Vamoulké must also spend part of it at the Special Criminal Court (TCS) for his 99th appearance since his arrest in July. 2016. Because of imminent threats to his health, RSF brought the case to the urgent attention of the UN special rapporteur on the right to health, almost two years after an initial urgent appeal went unanswered.

RSF asked the Special Rapporteur to intervene as soon as possible in favor of an emergency evacuation for medical reasons, and specified the extreme vulnerability of Vamoulké due to his age, his poor conditions of detention and the serious neurological disease 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 seen himself refused this care by the Cameroonian authorities.

As Amadou Vamoulké spends another birthday in prison, we urge the UN to urge the Cameroonian authorities to release him before it is too late.says Arnaud Froger, head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The authorities continue to ignore repeated calls for the journalist’s release despite his extremely fragile state of health, his age and his incarceration during a global pandemic. The rapid spread of Covid-19 in Cameroon’s overcrowded prisons and his status as a vulnerable person 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 July 29, 2016 on allegations that he embezzled public funds as director general of state radio and television. CRTV. Despite nearly 100 hearings, all adjourned, prosecutors have been unable to produce any evidence or testimony to support these allegations.

RSF has taken numerous steps with both Cameroonian and international authorities in order to obtain the journalist’s release. Following a referral from RSF, his detention was deemed arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in June 2020. In this decision, the Working Group also indicated that he had been deliberately denied medical care and announced that he was submitting the case to the Special Rapporteur on the right to health due to 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 been provided to date by the special rapporteur.

Cameroon is ranked 135th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.