Six years on, the disaster in the Anglophone (English-speaking) areas of Cameroon continues. Recent reports point out that over 6,000 folks were killed.
An extra 600,000 were internally displaced, whilst over 7,700 folks have turn out to be refugees in neighbouring Nigeria.
The war’s origins lie in part in the indisputable fact that Cameroon applies two other programs of regulation. Anglophone legal professionals say the gadget marginalises the not unusual regulation.
Cameroon was colonised by means of Great Britain and France, which occupied 20% and 80% of the territory respectively. They introduced both their language and their prison traditions of their respective spheres of affect.
So, the Anglophone areas follow the not unusual regulation. The Francophone areas follow the civil regulation.
In Cameroon, the not unusual regulation and the English language were systemically undermined by means of the predominantly Francophone government. At the stage of the Supreme Court, the major software of the civil regulation regularly left not unusual regulation litigants with out justice.
In October 2016, a peaceful protest over this by Anglophone lawyers was once met with disproportionate force from the executive.
By early 2017 the protests had turn out to be a violent separatist war. The executive attempted to handle some of the issues by means of developing the Common Law Division inside of the Supreme Court. The department is supposed to listen to ultimate appeals from courts in the Anglophone areas in issues when it comes to the not unusual regulation.
The law states that judges in the Common Law Division must have an “Anglo-Saxon” prison background. By implication, they must perceive the not unusual regulation rules and must talk English.
We tested data from the registry of the Courts of Appeal in the Anglophone areas and the Common Law Division. We additionally interviewed 32 Anglophone legal professionals and Supreme Court judges.
The function was once to evaluate how the Common Law Division was once addressing the issues raised about the restricted affect of the not unusual regulation in the Supreme Court.
Performance of the Common Law Division
The Common Law Division started functioning totally in 2018. As of September 2022, it had won 450 instances, 200 of which have been appeals made immediately from the Anglophone areas.
The different 250 had been appeals that had been pending in different divisions of the Supreme Court prior to the Common Law Division was once established. The instances had been predominantly civil and felony issues.
The Common Law Division has made ultimate selections in 125 instances. In a additional 178 instances, it has determined on admissibility – whether or not claims may also be heard.
That is due in part to concerted efforts by means of the judges to care for instances in a well timed means.
In the previous, as we exposed in our study, appeals from the Anglophone areas may just stay in the Supreme Court with out a determination for as much as 34 years. One explanation why was once that French-speaking civil regulation judges may just now not pay attention the appeals. Submissions had been written in English and in accordance with not unusual regulation rules which they didn’t perceive.
The not unusual regulation and civil regulation programs are moderately distinct in prison practices, rules and procedures. For example, the not unusual regulation is advanced by means of judicial precedent. This is a prison theory which calls for decrease courts to practice the determination made by means of a upper court docket, when listening to a later case with an identical info. The civil regulation will depend on codified regulation (prison texts).
Another distinction is that, in the not unusual regulation, submission of arguments in court docket is usually oral. This offers the court docket the alternative to hunt rationalization, prior to it considers the subject and makes a determination. In the civil regulation gadget, submissions are written in complete and supply restricted room for oral debate.
The legal professionals are cautiously positive about the Common Law Division. The majority have extra self assurance in making appeals to it as a result of their submissions are written in English and are in accordance with not unusual regulation rules carried out in the Anglophone areas. They know their instances are heard by means of judges who perceive the regulation and the language.
The judgements also are written in English, most commonly in the not unusual regulation taste of environment out the info, the acceptable regulation and the reasoning of the court docket.
This is necessary as a result of judicial precedent can’t be influential if the court docket does now not supply causes for its selections.
Despite the successes registered up to now, the Common Law Division nonetheless faces a quantity of demanding situations.
Foremost is the factor of process. The department applies civil regulation procedures particularly in the key space of admissibility. This is as a result of the 2006 Supreme Court Law lays out the process to be carried out right through the Supreme Court.
According to the legal professionals, filing an enchantment following civil regulation procedures is legalistic and technical. Moreover, civil regulation procedures don’t seem to be specifically in step with not unusual regulation procedures. So, appeals have a tendency to be pushed aside at the admissibility level for technical causes. Lawyers say this undermines justice for his or her shoppers. In the not unusual regulation, they are saying, such technicalities would now not save you a court docket from listening to a case.
Another necessary fear raised is that the Common Law Division remains to be below the Judicial Bench of the Supreme Court. This has a quantity of unfavorable penalties.
First, the department can’t expand the not unusual regulation sufficiently if it continues to depend on the Judicial Bench, which is civil regulation orientated.
Second, the department’s extensive jurisdiction approach it wishes a lot of monetary and different assets – virtually up to a bench itself.
Third, as a consequence of the restricted assets, Francophone judges could also be appointed to the department to relieve the drive on the Anglophone judges. That would defeat the function of developing the Common Law Division.
What must the executive do?
From our analysis and bearing in mind the perspectives expressed by means of Anglophone legal professionals and judges in the find out about, 3 suggestions stand out.
- Elevating the Common Law Division to a Common Law Bench. That will require a constitutional modification.
- Amending the Supreme Court Law of 2006 in order that not unusual regulation procedures may also be carried out in the Common Law Division.
- Appointing extra not unusual regulation skilled judges to the Common Law Division to relieve the drive on present judges.
The executive must imagine the above suggestions as section of the way to resolving the war.
Ashu Eware, State Prosecutor of the High Court of Manyu Division, Cameroon contributed to this newsletter.
Laura-Stella Enonchong, Senior Lecturer in Law, De Montfort University
Author: The Conversation Africa