Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Ambazonia: Revelatíons about atrocities committed against cìvilians

Government forces have killed dozens of civilians, indiscriminately used force and burned hundreds of homes in the last six months in Cameroon's English-speaking regions, 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.

Human Rights Watch research indicates that since last October, security forces, including soldiers, members of the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) and gendarmes, have 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.

A woman in her forties said she hid for three days in the surrounding countryside with her five children after the attack: "When I returned to the village, my house was gone, with everything that was inside. All I have left is the clothes I have on my back. "

The almost total lack of prosecutions initiated by the government for the crimes committed by the security forces in English-speaking regions has protected those responsible, and fueled abuses.

At least 31 members of the security forces were killed in operations between October and February in the north-west and south-west regions, according to credible media reports and information collected by Human Rights Watch.

Witnesses said that separatists attacked government officials, teachers and students, preventing them from returning home or going to school.

The number of kidnappings by separatists has also increased considerably, including more than 300 students under the age of 18 who were abducted in at least 12 incidents. All were released, mostly after payment of ransom.

In one case, a man in his 50s claimed that separatists kidnapped him and detained him for the purpose of ransoming a few days after the October presidential election - at which the separatists were opposite-while driving from Kumba to Buea, in the Southwest region. He was taken to a remote base led by the Ambazonia Restoration Forces (ARF) - one of the armed separatist groups operating in the English-speaking regions and affiliated with the Interim Government of Ambazonia - where he claims to have seen fighters execute two young men. "They were accused of going to vote," he said."They were beaten to death. "

The partners of Cameroon, especially France, should increase pressure they exert on the Cameroonian government so that those responsible are held to account for their actions and ensure that any support for Cameroonian security forces contributes human rights abuses or do not facilitate them. The United Nations Human Rights Council should request the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) or other UN experts to conduct an exploratory mission on allegations of human rights violations. human rights abuses in Cameroon. Members of the UN Security Council should formally add the Cameroon issue to the Council's agenda, request the UN Secretary-General to hold a briefing on this situation, and indicate unequivocal that those responsible for serious human rights abuses may be subject to sanctions.

"It is imperative that the Cameroonian government restore the rule of law in English-speaking areas and demand that people who blame civilians be held accountable," said Lewis Mudge. "The leaders of separatist groups should stop committing abuses against civilians, and show that they are willing to resolve this crisis. "

On February 12, Human Rights Watch sent a letter outlining its findings to Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, Secretary General of the Presidency of Cameroon, asking him to answer different questions. The government's response, dated March 22, denies that the security forces committed the abuses documented in this report. The government added that its security forces were all undergoing human rights training before being deployed and that some 30 cases were being tried in the Bamenda and Buea military courts for various crimes including torture. destruction of property, non-compliance with instructions and theft.