By Ayah Paul Abine

Is Mimi Mefo on bail? Is the case against her on course (to continue)?

Those have been interesting issues that have been raised since her release yesterday? Some CPDM lawyer and lay bigots were quick to describe her release as a presidential act of magnanimity; and they were assertive that the proceeding against her shall continue to the end. A good many interested as disinterested members of the public sought to know whether bail can be granted on a Saturday…

One should begin by congratulating Mimi’s defence team – Tamfu Esq, Madam Alice Nkom etc – for their commitment and legal prowess. At the end, however, the legal team was uncertain about the nature of their client’s release and whether criminal proceedings had been discontinued.

On my part, my little reading of the law and practice do not conjure up any express legal provision that bail can be granted on a Saturday. But by reasoning a contrario, it CANNOT, by necessary implications. Firstly, the business of the court is limited to working days. Saturday not being a working day, bail cannot legally and regularly be granted on such a day.

Again, by providing that no suspect should be taken into custody on a Saturday, the Criminal Procedure Code is telling, in effect, that, as bail is not possible on that day, custody, its antonym, shouldn’t be either. The symbol of justice being a balance, there cannot be one scale without the other. And the code is explicit that nonobservance of such of its provisions renders the process null and void.

Also does the law grant in the alternative the prerogatives of granting bail and that of remanding into custody: it is either the one or the other. I cannot bring my mind to any law that permits a judge to remand into custody in the morning and grant bail in the evening of his own volition in respect of the same party. If bail is denied by the lower court (including the State Counsel’s Chambers), for instance, the party applies for bail to the High Court. The lower court has no legal power to go forward and backwards: rule and overrule its own ruling.

And where a party is represented by a lawyer, every aspect of the proceeding must be done in the presence of the lawyer. If otherwise, the process is null and void as it is interpreted that the party has not been heard.

What, then, is the nature of Mimi Mefo’s release ? We have already indicated that even her lawyers don’t appear to be in the know. What I know, though, is that, at that level of the process, any release outside of bail can only be by a nolle prosequi. The only person competent to file a nolle is the Procureur General having territorial jurisdiction; or the ‘commissaire du Gouvernement’. A nolle must, however, be in writing and argued by the parties. The person filing the nolle must first be authorise in writing by the competent minister (Justice or Defence). I repeat ‘competent minister’!

For all that has been my lot to read, the President of the Republic has no power to issue a nolle (by decree); or order the release of the suspect/defendant/accused. It is possible he has some such similar power in respect of political ‘prisoners’; but NOT in the judiciary! The action by the President of the Republic in this case, (though hailed by his party’s bigots and lawyers), is not covered by any law; and it can only lead to the conclusion that Mimi was held as a political prisoner.

Be the case as it may, what is the fate of her case ? If it was a release consequent upon a nolle, the action is automatically and immediately discontinued, without the court reserving the right to ask any question. That does not, however, bar subsequent proceeding on the same facts. But as already pointed out, it was not a nolle.

As it was not bail either, it is quite difficult to be very assertive at law. What is clear though is that Mimi was not properly before the ‘Commissaire du Gouvernement’ at the very beginning for want of jurisdiction. All that the military officer did was consequently null and void. Subsequently getting her out of the mess by the act of the very officer is of no legal consequence: it was a remorseful act of repentance in mitigation of potential legal proceeding on false imprisonment against the officer in question. It does not have the effect of legalizing the illegality committed ab initio.

If Mimi is to appear before the ’Commissaire du Gouvernement’ for some other offence within his jurisdiction, she has to be served afresh in compliance with the relevant provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code. In short, nothing binds Mimi to appear before the officer tomorrow or before any court whatsoever in respect of the previous proceedings which are, for all intents and purposes, null and void!

All that has been said above is mere intellectual exercise since the military spokesman has declared that Mimi was released on the order of the President of the Republic; and that the said president has ordered the discontinuance of the proceeding. It does not fall to me to query whether the military spokesman also speaks for the military court. One may only rightly wonder, however, whether the President of the Republic as the Supreme Commander is a member of the military court; or whether he constitutes a higher military court with the power to overrule the lower military court. If otherwise, on what law was the President’s order(s) based?

The question appears to have no merits fundamentally. As Mimi was not properly before any competent court, and was therefore only under false imprisonment, whether the President’s act is legal or otherwise has no bearing against her ‘release’. In fact, she has only been liberated from captivity. Nor can there be any illegality in resorting to illegality to put an end to illegality!

All in all, Mr. President’s action is only consistent with the absence of the separation of powers in Camerouoon; and with the fact that all the three powers are concentrated in the hands of an individual. It is suggestive that the law has no binding effect in the country; and that justice NEVER can be done to an ordinary citizen who does not have the necessary popularity, or is not in a position to command the hue and cry from the members of the public (the masses)!

Anyway, for Mimi, all is well that ends well!



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