In November 2004, I received a request from a colleague to come to the aid of a French citizen living in Cameroon who was being prosecuted by the Police Commissioner of the DGRE, the Cameroon Bureau of Investigation.
I agreed to help and we met with him. He explained to us that he had recently ended a relationship with a woman who, in retaliation, had contacted all of the police departments in Douala as well as the DGRE. The DGRE Commissioner had then called the man and asked him to appear at the police station with two million Francs (approximately $4,000).
My colleague and I agreed to accompany him to the police station. We could not represent him because our rules of criminal procedure do not allow a lawyer to assist someone under direct investigation. But we were at his side to ensure that the DGRE office was actually located at the indicated police station; and that it was actually the Police Commissioner who had called him.
Once at the station, we introduced ourselves and explained why we were there. The Commissioner responded by shouting that we had no right to be there and that, in his capacity as police chief, he had “the right to kill” those present in his office.
The Commissioner ordered his officers to throw us out. We soon found ourselves in the courtyard of a public school, near the police station. I tried to contact the office of the President of the Bar in Douala to inform him of this incident, but the Commissioner ripped my cell phone from my hand, punched me in the face, pushed me into a bush and then left the premises.
Shocked, my colleague called another associate to help us. He arrived thirty minutes later accompanied by other lawyers, who filled the lobby of the DGRE office—the protest had begun. Two hours later, the Attorney General, representing the Bar, arrived to meet with the protesters. He not only approved of the Commissioner’s behavior, but also indicated that he would prevent the protesters’ access to the courtroom where they had gathered to coordinate the protest.