65 renowned rights groups urge AU to send fact-finding mission to investigate rights violations in NW, SW

A coalition of 65 human rights groups has called on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to engage in a fact finding mission into allegations of human rights abuses in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon.

The mission, they say should also recommend future steps to bring perpetrators of these rights violations to book. This comes as one of other recommendations made by the rights bodies.

Some of the groups include the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Africa International Criminal Justice Network.

The coalition made the call in a letter addressed to Solomon Dersso, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Chairman of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission and Smail Chergui, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union Commission.

Noting that the “Anglophone regions have been embroiled in a cycle of violence that has claimed 3000 lives, forced half a million people to flee their homes and left over 700,000 children out of school”, the coalition of 65 organisations said it is necessary to put an end to the crisis.

Tracing the crisis from 2016, the coalition noted that “Government forces and armed separatists have both been responsible for serious human rights abuses.”

“Security forces have killed civilians, burned dozens of villages, arbitrarily arrested and tortured hundreds of alleged armed separatists. Armed separatists have also targeted civilians, kidnapped hundreds of people, tortured and killed perceived opponents, while using intimidation and violence to keep children and their teachers out of school” it added.

Lauding the recent release of political prisoners, the letter added that more needs to be done to bring about peace. Some of the measures proposed include referring serious and systematic human rights violations in Cameroon to the next Assembly of Heads of State and Governments scheduled to take place 30 and 31 January 2020; Establish and carry out a fact-finding mission into all allegations of human rights abuses committed in the Anglophone regions since late 2016 and recommend future steps to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice; and the creation of the position of a special envoy on Cameroon who reports directly to the African Union Peace and Security Council.

“The Commission has recommended and conducted fact-finding missions in similar situations and its decisions have built important principles that could be applied to Cameroon” the letter added.

The coalition’s recent move adds as one of several calls for an end to the violence in the North West and South West regions, though little seems to be done as well as accountability regarding the human rights violations on the ground.

Photo Credit: Reuters Stringer

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