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PAGOC - Support project for human rights-based prison governance in Cameroon


Cameroon has a legislative framework that protects human rights, enshrined in the 1996 Constitution and supported by the ratification of various international conventions. Despite this progress, the country faces major challenges, notably an increase in arbitrary arrests and pre-trial detention, leading to prison overcrowding, particularly in dilapidated establishments with occupancy rates often exceeding 600%. In 2021, 58% of prisoners were on remand. The crackdown on acts of terrorism, broadly defined by the 2014 law, has led to arbitrary arrests, military trials for civilians, and the frequent use of the death penalty. Material conditions in prisons are critical, with inequality of treatment between prisoners. Foreigners and women are particularly affected, with frequent human rights violations at all levels of the penal system. Epidemics of Covid-19 and cholera in 2022 highlighted the deplorable hygiene conditions and poor access to healthcare for prisoners. The lack of professional and psychological support exacerbates the vulnerability of ex-prisoners, contributing to a high rate of recidivism.


This project has been designed to address the above issues, with the general aim of contributing to the consolidation of prison and judicial governance that is sensitive to human rights and the protection of people in detention, particularly the most vulnerable detainees in Cameroon. Specifically, the project aims to put in place a participatory and inclusive process involving all stakeholders in order to improve access to justice for vulnerable prisoners, their conditions of detention, their socio-professional reintegration and the effective application of alternative sentences with a view to reducing the prison population. The proposed action aims to contribute to a paradigm shift in the representation and perception of the prison system, which is currently oriented more towards punishment, degradation and the dehumanisation of prisoners.


Expected results :
R1 : A pool of actors in the penal chain is equipped and strengthened in approaches to taking human rights into account, measures to protect individuals and the Habeas Corpus procedure. Thanks to this result, the capacities of actors in the criminal justice system will be strengthened, enabling them to effectively carry out project activities requiring an in-depth understanding of the training themes.
R2 : Access to justice is ensured by trained lawyers for detainees through effective legal assistance. The lawyers will take on cases to ensure access to justice and will also defend Habeas Corpus cases. These cases will be integrated into a socio-professional integration support programme, offering prisoners a better prospect of life after release.
R3 : Setting up a multi-stakeholder monitoring group. This group will be responsible for carrying out dynamics and discussions on detention conditions and possible improvements.
R4 : Advocacy in favour of the application of alternative sentences, following on from the discussions on the previous result. This approach aims to propose alternative solutions to the traditional penal system, while taking into account the reflections and proposals of the multi-stakeholder group.


Actions planned for R1 :
  • Capacity-building for actors in the criminal justice system on respect for the human rights of people deprived of their liberty
  • Capacity-building and setting up a network of lawyers competent to work in prisons
  • Training lawyers and other players in the criminal justice system in habeas corpus.
Actions planned for R2 :
  • Legal assistance to persons deprived of their liberty in vulnerable situations or in pre-trial detention
  • Handling habeas corpus cases
  • Setting up a support and professional reintegration programme for prisoners
  • Cascading grants with the aim of reintegrating prisoners and improving prison conditions.
Actions planned for R3 :
  • Mapping of actors involved in promoting and protecting the rights of people in detention in Cameroon
  • Set up a multi-actor working group, identified on the basis of the mapping, to monitor and evaluate the effective application of legislative and regulatory provisions relating to prison conditions.
  • Raise prisoners' awareness of their rights, legal remedies and procedures through a practical guide.
Actions planned for R4 :
  • Carrying out a feasibility study on the introduction of alternative sentences
  • Organise a national symposium to present the study.
  • Set up an advocacy campaign for the introduction of alternative sentences


The PAGOC project consortium is made up of the following organisations 
  • Avocats Sans Frontières France (ASF France) : whose mission is to contribute to the consolidation of the rule of law, in particular through technical assistance to the legal and judicial professions;
  • Réseau Camerounais des Organisations des Droits de l'Homme (RECODH) : aims to promote and protect human rights through its network of associations and groups of associations;
  • The Research Institute for Development (RIDEV) : its mission is to support the most vulnerable prisoners with a view to promoting their social and professional reintegration.
  • The PAGOC project is funded by the European Union.

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