July 13, 2024

Amnesty International Urges Cameroon to Stop and Investigate Rampant Atrocities in Anglophone Regions

Cameroon's President Paul Biya has ordered the disbursement of $82
Cameroon's President Paul Biya has ordered the disbursement of $82

Cameroonian authorities are being urged to take immediate action to end the violence and investigate the widespread atrocities being committed in the Anglophone regions, according to a damning report released by Amnesty International. The report highlights the involvement of defense and security forces, militias, and armed separatists in acts of killing, rape, and the burning down of houses. Furthermore, the Mbororo Fulani community has been specifically targeted by armed separatists.

Amnesty International’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Samira Daoud, called on the Cameroonian authorities to conduct thorough investigations into these human rights violations and ensure that those responsible are held accountable through fair trials before impartial tribunals. Daoud emphasized that the victims have a right to justice and reparation.

The Anglophone crisis, which originated from peaceful protests in 2016-2017 demanding an end to the marginalization of the Anglophone minority, has escalated into armed violence in the North-West and South-West regions. This escalation has resulted in extreme suffering and loss of life for the population caught in the crossfire between various actors.

Amnesty International conducted two visits to Cameroon between November 2022 and March 2023, during which they met with over 100 victims, NGOs, journalists, and representatives of the Cameroon Human Rights Commission. However, requests for meetings with government ministers were met with silence.

The report meticulously documents the serious crimes committed by armed separatists, particularly against the Mbororo Fulani community in the North-West region. One harrowing account describes how armed separatists attacked a Mbororo Fulani compound, burning down a house and killing a mother and her two children. Discriminatory and inflammatory rhetoric targeting the Mbororo Fulani has also surfaced on social media.

Additionally, the report reveals the involvement of Mbororo Fulani militias in killings and the destruction of homes, sometimes with the assistance or complacency of Cameroonian troops. Amnesty International interviewed witnesses who described a group of armed individuals, accompanied by soldiers, who killed villagers and destroyed homes in the village of Gheidze.

Grave human rights violations committed by the defense and security forces in the North-West division of Bui were also documented in the report. Displaced victims recounted extrajudicial killings, rapes, and other sexual violence against women. The report includes testimonies from victims who endured horrific experiences, including one woman raped by a military man while her husband was forced to lie down.

The report also raises suspicions regarding the use of foreign weapons by separatist groups. Amnesty International examined military cooperation between Cameroon and its international partners, identifying weapons in propaganda videos that suggest stolen weapons from the Cameroonian army, obtained through foreign assistance, are being used in crimes against the population.

Amnesty International called upon Cameroon’s international partners, including France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Croatia, Israel, Russia, Serbia, and the USA, to conduct human rights risk assessments before providing further arms and to ensure that military assistance does not contribute to human rights abuses. They stressed the need for measures to secure all transfers and guarantee responsible use by authorized end-users.

The response from political and judicial authorities to the crisis has, unfortunately, involved further human rights violations. Rather than investigating crimes committed by armed separatists, authorities have accused individuals denouncing atrocities of being separatists or supporters, leading to their arbitrary arrests and detentions. Transparency in investigations into crimes committed by the defense and security forces has been lacking, raising concerns about impunity.

Efforts to curb freedom of expression and the right to seek information have exacerbated the situation. Human rights defenders, activists, lawyers, and media organizations bravely denouncing the atrocities have faced judicial proceedings, arbitrary detentions, and threats. Some have even been tried before military courts, despite international law prohibiting the jurisdiction of military courts over civilians.

The report also expresses deep concerns over the Cameroonian authorities’ lack of effective cooperation with international and regional human rights institutions. Repeated requests for fact-finding missions have gone unanswered, hindering efforts to assess the situation and advocate for justice.

Amnesty International urged the authorities to ensure that arrests and detentions are conducted by international human rights law and standards. They also called for protecting journalists, human rights defenders, and activists facing threats. The report serves as a call to action for the Cameroonian authorities to address the atrocities, protect the population, and provide justice for the victims.

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