FK (SDF member/activist – risk) Cameroon CG  UKAIT 00047
ASYLUM AND IMMIGRATION TRIBUNAL
Date of hearing: 22 March 2007
Date Determination notified: 21 May 2007
MR M G TAYLOR, CBE
|Secretary of State for the Home Department||RESPONDENT|
DETERMINATION AND REASONS
In the light of the evidence currently available, membership of or actual or perceived involvement with the SDF at any level is unlikely by itself to give rise to a real risk of persecution but some prominent and active opponents of the government in Cameroon may depending on their particular profile and circumstances continue to be at risk.
"1. This appeal has a long procedural history. The appeal was originally heard by Mr Curzon Lewis on 29 April 2002 and determined by him on 24 July 2002, the Immigration Judge finding that the appellant had not established a well-founded fear of persecution by reason of her political opinion. He found as a fact that the appellant's involvement with the SDF was at the lowest level in her ward as such activities as she undertook for the party were not such as to attract state attention.
2. An appeal from that decision was considered by the Immigration Appeal Tribunal on 17 September 2002 and leave to appeal refused. Pursuant to an application for judicial review in December 2002, that decision was quashed and the appeal remitted to a different Tribunal for consideration. The present solicitors began acting at that time.
3. At the hearing before the Immigration Appeal Tribunal, the appeal was remitted for hearing afresh, by consent, the Tribunal noting that both parties had produced further evidence. In the Secretary of State's case the evidence produced is one two-page letter from the British High Commission in Cameroon. The appellant produced various documents which the Immigration Judge considered, in rebuttal of the points made in the High Commissioner's letter.
4. The appeal was then reheard by Mrs N Bird, who determined it for the second time on 12 May 2004, without reference to the first determination; that was an entirely proper approach under the law as it then stood, because of the two tier structure which existed before 4 April 2005. However, the second [adjudicator's] determination does not deal with the letter from the British High Commission, although it does deal with other evidence which was put forward by the appellant to rebut the points made in the High Commissioner's letter. Both parties made submissions on the High Commissioner's letter, which are recorded in the second [adjudicator's] record of proceedings, but appear to have been overlooked in the determination itself.
5. The letter from the British High Commission is potentially very significant in this appeal, as it records that –
(a) The High Commissioner had approached the chairman and legal adviser of the SDF, Mr John Fru Ndi, who had never heard of the appellant, her father or the complaints against a Mrs F upon which the appellant relied. He noted that the appellant had used terminology describing the SDF structures in an inaccurate manner and that the SDF did not use the term sub group or have an administrative district in Douala known as NBT. He had found no trace of the appellant or her father in SDF records.
(b) The High Commissioner had then consulted the Chairman of the National Commission for Human Rights and Freedoms (a government founded body). The NCHRF Chairman, Dr C D B, indicated that he was sure that the appellant's claim to have been persecuted because of her membership of the SDF was not true, based upon his experience of the current human rights situation in Cameroon. Dr B himself originates from the north west province where the SDF had its headquarters.
(c) The High Commissioner next consulted two leading local NGOs, the Littoral branch of ACAT (The Association of Christians Against Torture), whose director did not believe the claim, and the chairman of NDH (Nouveaux Droits de L'Homme), which had strong support from the French Government and whose chairman, Dr H B, did not believe the allegations and was "categorically convinced that the mere fact of belonging to the SDF would not today expose a Cameroonian citizen to inhuman treatment".
(d) The High Commissioner confirmed that the death certificate for the appellant's father appeared to be genuine.
(e) An article from the Jeune Detective of 29 August 2002 had indeed been published but the High Commissioner observed that the Jeune Detective newspaper was unreliable and sensationalist.
(f) There was ready access to treatment for the physical aspects of the appellant's condition.
(g) Some NGOs in Cameroon worked with the victims of torture to support recovery.
6. It is most unfortunate that the Adjudicator did not deal at all with the High Commissioner's letter, having heard submissions upon it from both parties. The highest that Ms Webber was able to put her case was that, since the documentary evidence obtained by the appellant was intended to rebut the High Commissioner's letter, the Immigration Judge must have been aware of the letter and could not be taken to have overlooked it. That simply is not good enough, because this document is of crucial importance. The failure to deal with it is plainly an error of law, and one which is potentially decisive and therefore material. The appeal must be heard again.
7. There have been many changes in the political situation in Cameroon since the appellant came to the United Kingdom. We consider that this appeal, when reheard, may be suitable for country guidance on the position of the SDF, and the parties should provide up to date evidence to assist the reconsidering panel in considering the risk on return at the date of rehearing.
8. The Tribunal has therefore concluded that the appeal should be retained at Field House and heard by a legal panel."
Directions were given for the filing of further evidence including evidence on the issue of whether members of the SDF would be at real risk on return to Cameroon.
The Oral Evidence
(i). Mr N
(ii) The Appellant
(iii) The Appellant's son
The Medical Evidence
The Evidence from the British High Commission
The Background Situation in Cameroon
"In the early days of multi-party democracy President Biya's regime was seriously shaken by widespread opposition and protest. However, since then the CPDM and the President have managed to assert their dominance over the Cameroonian political scene although the SDF, led by Ni John Fru Ndi, has established itself as the main opposition party."
"Unlike previous years, there were no reports that government agents committed politically motivated killings; however, throughout the year the security forces have continued to commit unlawful killings including killings resulting from beatings and other use of excessive force."
"Conclusion. The SDF is the largest opposition party to play a major role in opposition political activity. It is a registered party and therefore being a member is not illegal. Unlike in 2004 when the party's activities were restricted and targeted by the government, there were no reports of any such restrictions in 2005. Therefore membership of, involvement in, or perceived involvement in the SDF at any level is not likely to amount to ill-treatment that engages the UK's obligations under the 1951 Convention. The grant of asylum in such cases is therefore not likely to be appropriate and should be certified as clearly unfounded."
"A UNHCR representative stated that although in the past particular groups have been persecuted by the state authorities, this is no longer the case. In the past members of the SCNC (Southern Cameroon National Council) faced harassment and inhuman treatment by the police."
Assessment of the Appellant's Evidence
Assessment of the risk to the Appellant on return
Signed Date: 23 April 2007
Senior Immigration Judge Latter
Background evidence produced at the hearing
CIPU Report 2004
USSD Report 2004
IRB Canada Report 29 April 2005, Cameroon The Social Democratic Front
US State Department Report Cameroon 2006
Amnesty International Report Cameroon 2006
E-mail from Peter Geschiere, 2 March 2006
COIS Report Cameroon 27 October 2006
Operation Guidance Note Cameroon issued 24 January 2007
This list does not include documents referred to in paragraphs 4 and 16 which relate solely to the appellant's circumstances.