Dissent violently repressed in Cameroon
29 January 2009
Cameroon's government has routinely used killings and torture to repress political dissent, according to a new Amnesty International report.
During a 10-year spell of gross human rights violations, Cameroonian security forces have habitually used excessive and unnecessary force – and the perpetrators have almost always enjoyed impunity.
“Political opposition is not tolerated in Cameroon,” said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa. “Any dissent is suppressed through either violence or abuse of the legal system to silence critics.”
In late February 2008, security forces killed as many as 100 civilians during demonstrations against the escalating cost of living. Amnesty International has received photographs and testimonies suggesting that some of the victims were shot at point blank range, without any effort made to arrest them.
“Unfair trials, intimidation and harassment, including death threats, are routinely used by the authorities to quash criticism from politicians, human rights defenders and journalists,” said Tawanda Hondora.
“The silencing of the media is particularly worrying. If a journalist is deemed too critical of the government they are silenced -- and radio and TV stations are shut down.”
Journalist Michel Mombio was arrested in September 2008 and spent 10 days in custody. He was then transferred to the central prison in the capital, Yaoundé, and charged with fraud and blackmail. He was still in custody without trial in January 2009.
Journalists covering street protests in February 2008 were assaulted by members of the security forces. The victims included a cameraman from Canal 2 International television, who was beaten and arrested and then had his camera destroyed. He was only freed after soldiers forced him to pay them.
The report, Cameroon: Impunity underpins persistent abuse, also exposes the appalling prison conditions in Cameroon. Jails suffer from inadequate food and medical care, as well as overcrowding.
Minors are often held together with adults and there is inadequate separation of males from females, which has led to sexual and other forms of violence and exploitation. Prisons are reported to be infested with rats and cockroaches and some inmates have resorted to sleeping in the toilets for lack of a place to rest.