Cameroon ac­cused of bru­tal acts of tor­ture

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY

AMNESTY In­ter­na­tional has ac­cused Cameroon se­cu­rity forces of war crimes against civil­ians caught up in the fight against ter­ror group Boko Haram.

In a re­port re­leased yes­ter­day, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said the al­leged crimes, which in­cluded de­ten­tion and tor­ture, were be­ing car­ried out at 20 sites, in­clud­ing four mil­i­tary bases, two fa­cil­i­ties run by in­tel­li­gence ser­vices, a pri­vate res­i­dence, as well as a school.

“Hun­dreds of people in Cameroon ac­cused of sup­port­ing Boko Haram, of­ten with­out ev­i­dence, are be­ing bru­tally tor­tured by se­cu­rity forces,” said Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, which urged the US and other in­ter­na­tional part­ners to in­ves­ti­gate their mil­i­tary per­son­nel’s pos­si­ble knowl­edge of tor­ture.

Us­ing dozens of tes­ti­monies, cor­rob­o­rated with satel­lite im­agery, pho­to­graphic and video ev­i­dence, the re­port ti­tled “Cameroon’s se­cret tor­ture cham­bers: hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions and war crimes in the fight against Boko Haram” doc­u­ments 101 cases of in­com­mu­ni­cado de­ten­tion and tor­ture be­tween 2013 and 2017, at more than 20 dif­fer­ent sites.

“We have re­peat­edly and un­equiv­o­cally con­demned the atroc­i­ties and war crimes com­mit­ted by Boko Haram in Cameroon. But noth­ing could jus­tify the cal­lous and wide­spread prac­tice of tor­ture com­mit­ted by the se­cu­rity forces against or­di­nary Cameroo­ni­ans,” said Alioune Tine, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s re­gional di­rec­tor for West and Cen­tral Africa.

“These hor­rific vi­o­la­tions amount to war crimes. Given the weight of the ev­i­dence we have un­cov­ered, the author­i­ties must ini­ti­ate in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tions into these prac­tices of in­com­mu­ni­cado de­ten­tion and tor­ture, in­clud­ing po­ten­tial in­di­vid­ual and com­mand re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said it wrote to the Cameroo­nian author­i­ties in April to share the re­port’s find­ings, but no re­sponse was pro­vided and all sub­se­quent re­quests for meet­ings were re­fused.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional es­ti­mates that Boko Haram has killed more than 1 500 civil­ians in Cameroon since 2014, and ab­ducted many others.

The Amnesty re­port said “vic­tims de­scribed at least 24 tor­ture meth­ods they were sub­jected to. In one com­mon stress po­si­tion, de­scribed by de­tainees as ‘the goat’, their limbs were tied to­gether be­hind their back be­fore they were beaten.

“The over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of vic­tims were tor­tured in two un­of­fi­cial de­ten­tion sites – the head­quar­ters of the Rapid In­ter­ven­tion Bat­tal­ion (BIR) in Salak, near the north­ern city of Maroua, and a fa­cil­ity in the cap­i­tal, Yaoundé, run by the Gen­eral Direc­torate of Ex­ter­nal Re­search (DGRE), Cameroon’s in­tel­li­gence ser­vices, sit­u­ated close to the coun­try’s Par­lia­ment.”

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said while tor­ture was usu­ally car­ried out by low and mid-rank­ing BIR of­fi­cers and DGRE agents, higher-rank­ing DGRE of­fi­cers were also iden­ti­fied by vic­tims as be­ing in­volved in in­ter­ro­ga­tions.

“The scale and fre­quency of the vi­o­la­tions, as well as the lo­ca­tions of rooms used, makes it very likely that other se­nior of­fi­cers at sites like Salak would have known what was hap­pen­ing. They ap­pear to have taken no mea­sures to pre­vent or pun­ish these vi­o­la­tions,” said the rights body.

The re­port said more than 50 vic­tims iden­ti­fied the same room in Salak where they were most com­monly tor­tured. Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s ev­i­dence sug­gested that these mil­i­tary bases and other sites are still hold­ing dozens of de­tainees who were al­legedly be­ing sub­jected to hor­rific acts of tor­ture.

These hor­rific vi­o­la­tions amount to war crimes – re­port

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