Thursday, March 28, 2019

Ambazonia: the BIR have killed 170 civilians in six months, Report says

Government forces in Cameroon's English-speaking areas have killed dozens of civilians, indiscriminately used force and burned hundreds of homes in the past six months, Human Rights Watch said today. Armed separatists attacked and abducted dozens of people during the same period, killing at least two men in a climate of increasing violence and increasing calls for secession from the northwestern and southwestern regions.

Violence has intensified since October 2018, with government forces conducting large-scale security operations and separatists launching several attacks. The Cameroonian government should investigate allegations of human rights abuses and ensure the protection of civilians during security operations. Separatist leaders should immediately order their fighters and supporters to end all human rights abuses and stop obstructing children's schooling.

"The Cameroonian authorities are obliged to provide a legal response and protect the rights of people during times of violence," said Lewis Mudge, director for Central Africa at Human Rights Watch. "By targeting civilians, the government is showing a disproportionate response that is counterproductive and likely to cause more violence. "

Since October, at least 170 civilians were killed in more than 220 incidents occurred in areas of the Northwest and Southwest, according to media and research Human Rights Watch. Given the persistence of clashes and the difficulty of obtaining information in remote areas, the number of civilians who died in these incidents is probably higher.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 140 victims, family members and witnesses between December and March, including 80 in person in the North West and South West regions in January.

In the fall of 2017, the Cameroonian security forces repressed large-scale demonstrations to celebrate the symbolic independence of the English-speaking regions from the French-speaking areas of the country; these incidents left more than 20 dead among the protesters.

Since then, the emergence of armed separatist groups has been accompanied by attacks and an increase in the militarization of the English-speaking regions. These disturbances have displaced more than half a million people since the end of 2016.

Research conducted by Human Rights Watch indicates that since last October, security forces, including soldiers, members of Rapid Intervention (BIR) and gendarmes, killed civilians, indiscriminately used force, and destroyed and looted private and public property.

In one of these cases, witnesses said that Cameroon's security forces attacked the village of Abuh in the north-west region in November and burned an entire neighborhood to ashes. Satellite images and photographic evidence obtained by Human Rights Watch show that up to 60 structures have been destroyed.