July 5, 2016: Press release from FIDH, the Worldwide Movement for Human Rights:
On 4 July 2016, the Presidency of Cameroon announced that President Paul Biya had pardoned the Franco-Cameroonian lawyer Lydienne Yen-Eyoum after six years in jail for “embezzlement of public funds” and that she would not have to serve the remainder of her sentence.
FIDH has been very active in advocating for the release of Lydienne Yen-Eyoum, particularly before the session of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD). In April 2015 this Group rendered its decision on the Lydienne Yen-Eyoum case, denouncing her “deprivation of freedom” particularly on the grounds of the absence of “notification of the reasons for the arrest” and the fact that the temporary detention had “exceeded the legal deadline”.
The Lydienne Yen-Eyoum case dates back to 2004, when while practicing as a lawyer, she was instructed by the Cameroon Finance Minister to recover assets from the Société générale de banques du Cameroun (SGBC), a Franco-Cameroonian subsidiary of the Société générale. She was arrested in January 2010, and charged with embezzling 1.077 billion CFA francs (1.5 million Euros) of funds recovered. At the end of 2014, the Cameroon Special Criminal Court (SCC), which specialises in controlling large-scale corruption, sentenced her to twenty-five years in prison. In June 2015 the Supreme Court confirmed her sentence.
The Lydienne Yen-Eyoum case is part of Operation Sparrow Hawk (Opération Épervier), which was launched in 2006 by the Cameroonian authorities to fight corruption and has given rise to numerous instances of politicians and business leaders being arrested and given heavy sentences. Pressure from the highest French authorities had already led to the release on 24 February 2014 of another Franco-Cameroonian, Michel Thierry Atangana, who had been arbitrarily imprisoned for 17 years for “embezzling public funds”. Despite the need to fight the corruption plaguing Cameroon, Operation Sparrow Hawk is generally perceived as the most recent purge of the political-financial apparatus by the Paul Biya regime. This time-tested method has allowed him to stay in power since 1982, that is, for 34 years.