UN Committee tells Cameroon to put an end to torture by security forces in the fight against Boko Haram

Cameroon must act swiftly on the recommendations published today by the UN Committee against Torture and put an end to the widespread use of torture by security forces fighting Boko Haram, Amnesty International said.

The Committee expressed deep concerns about the use of secret torture chambers documented by Amnesty International in July, and its failure to clarify whether investigations were being carried into these allegations, as well as other reports of killings of civilians and enforced disappearances.

With the Committee against Torture now also demanding an end to the use of torture in Cameroon, it is becoming impossible for the world to ignore the widespread practice of torture in the country
Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International’s Lake Chad researcher

“With the Committee against Torture now also demanding an end to the use of torture in Cameroon, it is becoming impossible for the world to ignore the widespread practice of torture in the country,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International’s Lake Chad researcher.

“The clamour for justice is growing and Cameroonian authorities should respond by taking these reports of torture far more seriously and launching an independent and efficient investigation into these horrific practices.”

Based on submissions from organisations including Amnesty International, the UN Committee noted that large numbers of people from Cameroon’s Far North region are likely to have been held incommunicado and tortured by members of the military and the intelligence services in at least 20 illegal detention facilities between 2013 and 2017.

The Committee also raised concerns that this torture took place with the likely knowledge of senior BIR and intelligence officers at one military base, and that dozens of people may have died following torture and inhuman conditions of detention.

In its recommendations the Committee called on Cameroon to publish a declaration from the highest state level affirming an absolute prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment and put an end to the practice of incommunicado detention.

It also called for effective, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of torture, incommunicado detention and death in custody, and for alleged perpetrators and accomplices of such acts, including those in command responsibility, be prosecuted and sentenced in proportion to the seriousness of the offences.

Elsewhere in its concluding observations, the UN Committee also echoed concerns raised by Amnesty International and others in relation to human rights violations committed in the Anglophone regions of the country, including by demanding an investigation into the deaths of at least 20 people killed in October in clashes between the security forces and protestors.

The Committee criticized the failure of Cameroon to provide information on the number of people still detained following protests in the regions, or whether investigations had been launched into the excessive use of force.

UN experts also noted their concerns that journalists such as RFI correspondent Ahmed Abba had been charged under counter-terrorism laws, and that some had been subjected to torture while in detention. The Committee also criticized the regular use of military courts in trials of civilians.

“The UN’s anti-torture experts have recognised that there is a major problem in Cameroon, and their warnings should be heeded. There should be no tolerance of human rights violations like torture, and we hope that the Cameroonian authorities and international community will respond to this report with the seriousness it deserves,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi.


Background

On 7-8 November, the Committee against Torture convened in Geneva, where among other things it completed a two-day review of Cameroon’s fifth periodic report on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention against Torture covering the period 2010-2015.

The Committee – which is comprised of 10 independent experts – engaged in a dialogue with the Cameroonian delegation which included representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Police, and the Permanent Mission of Cameroon to the United Nations Office at Geneva. Cameroon is among the 162 state parties to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.