UN Human Rights Chief deeply alarmed by reports of serious rights breaches in Cameroon

Cameroon_residentsUN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Wednesday expressed deep alarm at persistent reports of human rights violations and abuses in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon, as well as in the Extreme North.

The High Commissioner said it was regrettable that the Government of Cameroon had failed to grant the UN Human Rights Office access to the Northwest and Southwest despite repeated requests.

“Given the seriousness of the reports of violence against Cameroonians in the western part of the country, we have asked for access to be able to verify allegations made against both security forces and armed elements,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “We will now need to explore other options, including remote monitoring.”

What began as protests in October 2016 in the Northwest and Southwest regions against structural discrimination escalated into violence in 2017, and the situation has worsened considerably since then. There are reports that armed elements have carried out kidnappings, targeted killings of police and local authorities, extortion and have torched schools. There are also reports that Government forces are responsible for killings, the excessive use of force, burning down of houses, arbitrary detentions and torture. UN figures indicate that more than 21,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries, while 160,000 have been internally displaced by the violence, many reportedly hiding in forests.

“To prevent the situation from deteriorating further, I urge the Government to launch independent investigations into the reports of human rights violations by State security forces as well as abuses by armed elements,” Zeid said.

“I condemn the attacks by Cameroonian armed elements, including the ambush on 13 July near the town of Kumba in the Southwest region on a Minister of Defence convoy. But the heavy-handed security response that the Government appears to have employed since October last year will only make matters worse for the women, children and men caught in the middle.”

The High Commissioner also said he was “utterly appalled” by a horrific video reportedly showing members of the armed forces executing a woman, a child and a baby accused of being members of Boko Haram.

“The Government of Cameroon has an obligation to investigate this atrocious crime urgently. I am deeply worried that these killings captured on camera may not be isolated cases,” he said.