HRW accuses Cameroon of torturing political detainees

Torched homes in Zeleved, northern Cameroon -- the work of Boko Haram jihadists from Nigeria. AFP/Reinnier KAZE

Torched homes in Zeleved, northern Cameroon -- the work of Boko Haram jihadists from Nigeria. AFP/Reinnier KAZE

‘The UN Security Council should send a clear message that ending torture in detention is critical to addressing the crisis,’ says a director.

Cameroonian authorities have tortured and held incommunicado political detainees at a detention facility in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has alleged.

In a Monday report, the rights group accused gendarmes and other security forces at the State Defense Secretariat (Secrétariat d’Etat à la défense, SED) of severely beating and using near-drowning to extract confessions from detainees suspected of ties to armed separatist groups.

English-speaking Cameroonians allege discrimination at the hands of the Francophile government and majority, and have been pushing for equality for several years.

Peaceful street protests were brutally quashed by the country’s security forces in 2018, leading to a radicalisation of protesters with some taking up arms against the police and military and calling for a separate state of Ambazonia in the Anglophone regions.

HRW, in its report, called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to put Cameroon on its agenda, condemn torture and incommunicado detention, and called for the government to end these practices.

“Over the past year, the security forces in Cameroon have used torture without fear of repercussion,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at HRW.

“The UN Security Council should send a clear message that ending torture in detention is critical to addressing the crisis in the Anglophone regions.”

HRW has documented 26 cases of incommunicado detention and enforced disappearance at the SED detention site between January 2018 and January 2019, including 14 cases of torture but alleges the total number of cases is probably much higher due to abuses being committed in secret and the fear of detainees speaking out.

– African News Agency

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