The Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) and the SOS-Torture litigators’ group in Africa have accused Cameroon of violating “articles 1, 2 (1), 11, 12, 13, 14 and 16 of the Convention against Torture, which guarantees protection against acts of torture and ill-treatment and compensation to victims”.
The rights groups in a joint release cited the case of a Buea-based businessman allegedly tortured by Cameroonian security forces in the country’s minority Anglophone regions. The businessperson arrested in January 2019, they note, was accused of buying arms for separatist fighters in the region from the US.
Following his arrest, the rights groups noted, “The victim is first brought to the Gendarmerie Brigade where he is thrown on the floor and given 60 to 75 lashes with the flat side of a machete”.
Then, the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), an elite force of the Cameroonian army is said to have taken over.
The BIR “… beat him and threatened him to death with a gun. The defense and security forces detained him incommunicado for a period of one and a half months at a makeshift camp in Tole. He remained naked in a cell for 15 days with no access to light, and no food and water for 3 days,” they narrate.
CHRDA Executive Director, Barrister Felix Nkongho says, “After unsuccessful denunciations to national authorities, we decided to reach out to international treaty bodies to seek justice and protection for vulnerable civilians caught in the middle of a violent crisis”.
CHRDA, he added, had “… documented other cases of torture committed by both state security forces, and non-state armed groups and we hope that all perpetrators will face justice”.
“During the last sessions of the Human Rights Council, we have called on Cameroonian authorities to investigate the numerous cases of torture, but no change has happened”, notes Gerald Staberock, Secretary-General of the OMCT.
He further recalled that “in 2017, the CAT had already drawn the attention of Cameroonian authorities to the risk of excessive use of force by BIR soldiers, but no action has been taken to prevent these crimes either”.
“We call on the CAT to recognize the responsibility of Cameroon and to grant reparations to the victim,” the rights groups stated in their release.
Their complaint, they noted, “… is part of a long series of strategic litigation initiated before regional and international treaty bodies, in collaboration with the SOS-Torture litigators’ group in Africa”.
“Our goal is to allow victims of torture to receive justice when their country no longer offers them this opportunity,” stated the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa and the SOS-Torture litigators’ group in Africa.
Cameroon’s army and especially the dreaded BIR unit have been accused of multiple rights violations especially in the Far North and Anglophone regions where they are engaged in combat.
Even in the face of glaring evidence, the government has however often denied these accusations, describing them as a smear campaign to discredit its troops.
Mimi Mefo Info