government: republic; multiparty presidential regime
state of civil and political rights: Not free
constitution: 20 May 1972 revised in 1996 amended April 2008
legal system: mixed legal system of English common law, French civil law, and customary law
legislative system: unicameral National Assembly (Assemblee Nationale)
judicial system: Supreme Court, judges are appointed by the president. High Court of Justice
religion: indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%
death row: more than 100 (all commuted to life sentence in February 2014)
year of last executions: 0-0-1988
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
1st Optional Protocol to the Covenant
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty) (only signed)
Cameroon applies the death penalty for treason. The Criminal Code also
prescribes the death penalty for serious crimes including murder
committed with premeditation, acts of violence or physical assaults
against a government employee, with the intention of killing him, and
aggravated theft. Following criticism that the definition of aggravated
theft was extremely vague, in December 1990 Parliament adopted an
amendment to the Criminal Code, stating that a crime can be considered
aggravated theft only if the violence has led to death or serious
injury. Traffic in toxic or dangerous wastes was made a capital offence
in December 1989.
Any final death sentence handed down by the national courts is
automatically the subject of a mercy petition to the President of the
Republic, who may decide to exercise clemency by virtue of discretionary
powers. The sentence cannot be carried out until the President has
rejected the petition.
The Head of State has signed decrees to commute and remit the sentences
of death row inmates on several occasions, including a 1991 amnesty law
releasing the still-jailed perpetrators of a failed 1984 coup d’etat. Some of the conspirators had been put to death on 6 April 1984.
On 20 May 2008, on the anniversary of the independence of Cameroon,
President Paul Biya issued another decree commuting all death sentences
to life imprisonment. Prisoners whose death sentences had been commuted
to life imprisonment in previous years had their sentences reduced to 20
On his 3 November 2011 inauguration for another term as President, Paul
Biya commuted some death sentences to life imprisonment. Sentences of
life imprisonment were commuted to 20 years' imprisonment, and 10-year
sentences were reduced by eight years. On 19 February 2014, Cameroon
President Paul Biya commuted the sentences of death row inmates to life jail
Cameroon’s most recent judicial execution was carried
out in Mokolo Prison in January 1997. Until 1997 no executions have
taken place in Cameroon since 1988.
In 2013, for the second time in recent years, no
new death sentences were handed down in Cameroon.
On 21 November 2012, the government funded National Commission on Human
Rights and Freedoms released a report in which it called for the
abolition of the death penalty.
The war on terror
In December 2014, President Paul Biya promulgated the new anti-terrorism law, which provides for the death penalty for the perpetrators of terrorism acts. The law specifies that terrorist crimes are the taking of action likely to cause death; to endanger or damage the physical integrity of an-other; or to do damage to the nation’s natural resources, environment, or cultural heritage. Even those who finance terrorism, engage in money laundering, recruit in the name of terrorism or ac-claim terrorist activities will face the death penalty. The new anti-terrorism law was criticised by the opposition, civil society groupings and human rights organisations as severely curtailing basic freedoms.
On 1 May 2013, Cameroon was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review
of the UN Human Rights Council. The Government rejected recommendations
to establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to
abolishing the death penalty on the grounds of its perceived deterrent
nature, and because public opinion remains strongly in favour of capital
punishment. Foreign Minister Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo said that Cameroon
needs "more time" to make progress on the matter. The law is expression
of the general will and the Government must take account of the
electorate and the evolution of society... The death penalty is not
applied de facto, and its abolition “will happen one day”, the Minister
told States parties to the UN Human Rights Council.
On 19 December 2016, Cameroon abstained from the Resolution on a
Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly, as in the previous years.