Law School Writer | February 1, 2017
Felix Agbor Nkongho, ’06 LL.M., has been charged with treason, terrorism, and other capital offenses by a military court in Cameroon after recently leading a series of protests in English-speaking regions of the country. Media reports indicate that his trial will begin on February 1 in the capital city of Yaoundé.
Sean O’Brien, director of the LL.M. program in International Human Rights Law and Nkongho’s professor at Notre Dame, has filed a petition for urgent action with the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Working with alumni of the LL.M. program, he successfully urged Amnesty International to issue a statement calling for Cameroon to “immediately and unconditionally” release Nkongho and his colleague.
“Felix is a well recognized and highly respected human rights defender. He has been targeted because of the effectiveness of his non-violent advocacy on behalf of the legal, educational, and cultural rights of Anglophone Cameroonians,” O’Brien said. “He should be released.”
French and English are both official languages in the African country, but English-speaking citizens like Nkongho think that government policies are discriminatory to English-speakers, particularly in the education and judicial systems.
A longtime human rights officer and legal adviser to various United Nations field missions, Nkongho is president of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, a non-governmental organization that advocates on behalf of English-speaking residents. The group objects to the government’s use of only French in courts and schools in Cameroon’s southwest and northwest provinces, which marginalizes and limits access to justice for English-speaking residents. Lawyers, teachers, and students have been striking and protesting since October 2016.