The protection of juveniles under Cameroon criminal law and procedures through the lens of international standards

Author:Thomas Ojong
Position:University of Buea, Cameroon
Pages:200-223
SUMMARY

While the legislative framework on the adminitration of juvenile justice in Cameroon may currently be adequate and in compliance with the international conventions ratified by the State, the implementation of the national law should be the primary mechanism through which human rights are realized. Cameroon is usually said to be a State with good laws but poor implementation. With recourse to the... (see full summary)

 
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The protection of juveniles under Cameroon criminal law
and procedures through the lens of international standards
PhD. Thomas OJONG
1
Abstract
While the legislative framework on the adminitration of juvenile justice in
Cameroon may currently be adequate and in compliance with the international conventions
ratified by the State, the implementation of the national law sh ould be the primary
mechanism through which human rights are realized. Cameroon is usually said to be a
State with good laws but poor implementation. With recourse to the normative and
empirical methods, this article explores the provisions on the protection of juveniles in
Cameroon criminal law and procedures through the lens of internationally recognized
principles. It looks at the provisions as they are interpreted and applied by the Courts. The
prospect being to invite the Government and all the stakeholders to embark on establishing
the structures provided for and ensure effectiveness in the enforcement of juvenile justice in
the country so as to overcome the current weaknesses that the system is experiencing.
Keywords: protection; juvenile; minor, Cameroon criminal law and procedure,
international standards.
JEL Classification: K14, K33
1. Introduction
Cameroon is a State Member of many African and International
Conventions
2
promulgating human rights in general and the protection of minors in
particular. The latter is defined by domestic law with respect to age
3
. Hence, the
1
Thomas Ojong - University of Buea, Cameroon, thomas.ojong@yahoo.fr .
2
Cameroon has ratified many conventions for the administration of juvenile justice under the United
Nations Human Rights System an d the African Union Human Rights System. Indeed, Cameroon
recognises the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 10 December 1948, the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of 1966, the Convention on the Rights
of the Child (UN General Assembly Resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989 and entered into force
on 2 September 1990 ) ratified by Cameroon on the 11 january 1993, the African Charter on Rights
and Welfare of the Child commonly called African Children's Charter (Adopted by the OAU
Assembly of Heads of States and Governments on 11 july 1990, and came into force on 29
November 1999) ratified by Cameroo n on 5 September 1997, African Charter on Human and
Peoples' Rights called African Charter (Adopted by the OAU Assembly of Heads o f States and
Governments on 17 july 1981 and entered into force on 21 October 1986) ratified by Cameroon on
20 june 1989.
3
See section 80 of the Cameroon penal Code which stresses that ''(1) No criminal responsibility shall
arise from the act or omission of a person aged less than ten years. (2) An offence committed by a
person aged not more than 10 years and not less than fourteen years may attract only such special
measure as may by law be provided. (3) For an offence committed by a person aged over fourteen
Juridical Tribune Volume 7, Special Issue, October 2017 201
Penal Code (hereinafter PC) provides different treatments to children depending on
whether they are below the age of 10, between 10-14 years, or between 14-18
years; the Code recognizes that a minor or juvenile is any person aged less than
eighteen (18) years
4
. The definition provided for in the Beijing Rules
5
adopting the
UN Standard Minimum for the Administration of Juvenile Justice reveals that the
term juvenile does not necessarily correspond to the concept of age. Section 2(2)(a)
of Beijing Rules defines a juvenile as a child or a young person who, under the
respective legal systems, may be dealt with for an offence in a manner which is
different from an adult. Referring to the Penal Code of Cameroon, section 349 (2)
provides that "... any lunatic notorious or so found, and any spendthrift so found,
shall be treated as a minor''. Thus, it is the way in which the law is applied that
dictates whether an offender is also a juvenile for purposes of law
6
.
Through the ratification of International Treaties, the repeal of formerly
applicable laws
7
on the administration of juvenile justice in Cameroon, the
and under eighteen years responsibility shall be diminished. (4) A person aged eighteen years or
over shall be responsible as an adult. (5) The age relevant to this section shall be that attained at
the date of the commission''. Also see Sections 704-705 of the Cameroon Criminal Procedure Code
which provide that " A minor of twelve (12) to fourteen (14) years of age shall not be remanded in
custody, except when he is accused of capital murder or of assault occasioning death. A minor aged
between fourteen (14) and eighteen (18) may be remanded in custody only if this measure is
considered indispensable".
4
Cameroon Criminal Procedure Code, Section 700 (1) "A preliminary inquiry shall be compulsory
for a felony or a misdemeanour committed by minors aged less than eighteen (18) years". Section
80(4) Penal Code provides that" A person aged eighteen years or over shall be responsible as an
adult". The African Children's Charter, section 2 and the CRC in section 1, define a minor as every
human being below the age of 18 years. It should be noteworthy that this definition of a juvenile is
subjected to domestic legislations.
5
UN General Assembly Resolution 40/33 of 29 November 1985 adopting UN S tandard Minimum for
the Administration of Juvenile Justice, called the "Beijing Rules''.
6
Eric Ngonji Njungwe, International Standards on Juvenile Justice: Implications of the New
Criminal Procedure Code on the Administration of Juvenile Justice in Cameroon, CJDHR, Vol.2,
2, December, 2008, P. 60. The author was taking over the words of Geraldine Van Bueren in
The International Law on the Rights of the Child, Netherlands, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1995,
P. 169.
7
Criminal Procedure Code, Section 746 (1) provides that " All previous provisions repugnant to this
law ar e hereby repealed, in particular: d) The decree of 30 November 1928 establishing special
courts and the probation system for minors ; (m) The Children and Young Persons Ordinance (Cap
32 o f the Laws of Nigeria 1958); The decree of 30 October 1935 on the protection of children;
Juveniles Courts Rules, Cap.32 of the 1958 Laws o f the Federation of Nigeria; Circular N°
9062/DJAS of 15 July 1967 on pre-trial detention of minors; Circular N° 300018/DJAS of 8 July
1968 on juvenile delinquents and runaway children; Circular N° 66/5435/ PGY of 30 June 1969 on
juvenile delinquency and placement in the Cameroonian Juvenile Institute in Betamba; Decree N°
73/115 of 22 March 1973 on the organization and operatin of the Buea Borstal Institute; Decree N°
73/333 of 25 June 1973 on the organization and operation of the Cameroon Juvenile Institute in
Betamba; Circular N° 9062/MINJUSTICE/DAJS of 18 October 1989 providing for the redu ction of
pre-trial detention of minors to a minimum; Decree N ° 90/524 of 23 March 1990 establishing the
National Commission to Protect Children at Risk, Juvenile Delinquents and Abandoned Children;
Decree 92/052 of 27 March 1992 on the prison system in Cameroon; Circular
0007/7128/DAJS of 27 January 1995 on pre-trial ddeteention of minors.

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