Cameroon Human Right 2017 Report April 2018 - History

Cameroon Human Right 2017 Report April 2018 - History

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The law provides for the rights of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law also prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Statutory limitations and other practices substantially restricted these rights. The law does not permit the creation of a union that includes both public- and private-sector workers or the creation of a union that includes different, even if closely related, sectors. The law requires that unions register with the government, permitting groups of no fewer than 20 workers to organize a union by submitting a constitution and by-laws; founding members must also have clean police records. The law provides for heavy fines for workers who form a union and carry out union activities without registration. Trade unions or associations of public servants may not join a foreign occupational or labor organization without prior authorization from the minister responsible for “supervising public freedoms.”

The constitution and law provide for collective bargaining between workers and management as well as between labor federations and business associations in each sector of the economy. The law does not apply to the agricultural or informal sectors, which included the majority of the workforce.

Legal strikes or lockouts may be called only after conciliation and arbitration procedures have been exhausted. Workers who ignore procedures to conduct a legal strike may be dismissed or fined. Before striking, workers must seek mediation from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security at the local, regional, and ministerial levels. Only if mediation fails at all three levels can workers formally issue a strike notice and subsequently strike. The provision of law allowing persons to strike does not apply to civil servants, employees of the penitentiary system, or workers responsible for national security, including police, gendarmerie, and army personnel. Instead of strikes, civil servants are required to negotiate grievances directly with the minister of the appropriate department in addition to the minister of labor and social security. Arbitration decisions are legally binding but were often unenforceable if one party refused to cooperate.

Employers guilty of antiunion discrimination are subject to fines of up to approximately one million CFA francs ($1,866).

Free Industrial Zones are subject to labor law, except for the following provisions: the employers’ right to determine salaries according to productivity, the free negotiation of work contracts, and the automatic issuance of work permits for foreign workers.

In practice, the government and employers did not effectively enforce the applicable legislation on freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Penalties for violations were rarely enforced and useless as a deterrent. Administrative judicial procedures were infrequent and subject to lengthy delays and appeals. The government and employers often interfered in the functioning of workers’ organizations. The government occasionally worked with nonrepresentative union leaders to the detriment of elected leaders, while employers frequently used hiring practices such as subcontracting to avoid hiring workers with bargaining rights. Blacklisting of union members, unfair dismissal, promotion of employer-controlled unions, and threatening workers trying to unionize were common practices.

New trade unions did not have easy access to registration. In a letter dated July 30, officials of the newly formed Private Security Workers Union in Wouri Division, Littoral region, informed the Registrar of Trade Unions of the creation of their organization in April 2016 and at the same time requested its affiliation with the Confederation of Workers’ Unions of Cameroon (CSTC). The registrar requested additional time to authenticate the documents provided.

More than 100 trade unions and 12 trade union confederations operated, including one public-sector confederation.

The government undermined the leadership of the CSTC elected in 2015 by continuing to cooperate with former leaders of the CSTC. Jean Marie Zambo Amougou, the former leader, continued to use the title of “President of the CSTC,” despite a January 17 court decision ordering him to stop doing so with immediate effect. The Minister of Labor and Social Security continued to consider Zambo Amougou as the official representative of the CSTC, inviting him to meetings and sending all CSTC correspondence to him, to the detriment of CSTC’s legitimate leader, Andre Moussi Nolla, and other new leaders, despite multiple complaints by the CSTC. The minister also appointed Zambo Amougou, Tsoungui Fideline Christelle, Beyala Jule Dalamard, Nintcheu Walla Charles, Malloum Lamine, and Hamadou Nassourou, all members of the former CSTC management team, to be workers’ representatives in the country’s delegation at the 106th International Labor Conference in Geneva June 5-16. In a May 31 letter to the International Labor Organization’s Credentials Committee, the new leaders of the CSTC unsuccessfully attempted to oppose the inclusion of these delegates.

As in 2016, trade unionists reported on officials prohibiting the establishment of trade unions in their private businesses, including Fokou, Afrique Construction, Eco-Marche, and Quifferou, or otherwise hindering union operations. Some companies based in Douala II, IV, and V and in Tiko (Southwest region), for example, retained 1 percent of unionized workers’ salaries but refused to transfer the money to trade unions. Some companies that were initially against unionization of their workers changed their minds and allowed their employees to join trade unions, such as DANGOTE Ciment Cameroon, which allowed elections of workers’ representatives.

Many employers frequently used hiring practices such as subcontracting to avoid hiring workers with bargaining rights. Workers’ representatives stated that most major companies, including parastatal companies, engaged in the practice, citing ENEO, CDE, Cimencam, Guinness, Alucam, and many others. Subcontracting was reported to involve all categories of personnel, from the lowest to senior levels. As a result, workers with equal expertise and experience did not always enjoy similar advantages when working for the same business; subcontracted personnel typically lacked a legal basis to file complaints.

A number of strikes were announced, some of which were called off after successful negotiation. Others, however, were carried out without problems, or with some degree of repression. Workers’ grievances generally involved poor working conditions, including lack of personal protective equipment, improper implementation of collective agreements, nonpayment of salary arrears or retirement benefits, illegal termination of contracts, lack of salary increases, and failure of employers to properly register employees and pay the employer’s contribution to the National Social Insurance Fund, which provides health and social security benefits.

The government suspended the salaries of 11 workers’ representatives affiliated with the Wouri divisional union of council workers following a strike on April 10. Employees of the city council in Douala demanded health insurance for themselves and their immediate relatives. The government-delegate fired the complainants, but was overruled by the Minister of Labor and Social Security. The government-delegate, however, had not reinstated the employees as of December.

Medical doctors staged a series of strikes for better working conditions and higher pay in April and May, after unsuccessful negotiations with health minister Andre Mama Fouda in January had failed to yield positive outcomes. Minister Fouda cautioned the doctors against striking, which he described as illegal, stating that the doctors union was not registered. In an attempt to neutralize the movement after the April strike, he transferred union leaders to health facilities in remote rural areas in the northern part of the country. In none of the transfers did the technical level of the health facility match the profile of the doctors.

Teachers and lawyers in the Anglophone regions also went on a strike that lasted for many months to protest what they referred to as their marginalization by the French-speaking majority. After initially restricting the lawyers significantly, the government subsequently implemented a series of measures aimed at diffusing tension. Lawyers and teachers resumed work in the two regions by November.

HRW &ndash Human Rights Watch

Cameroon, a country previously known for its stability, faced violence and serious human rights abuses in 2018. The country endured abusive military operations against a secessionist insurgency in three Anglophone regions, attacks by the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, in the Far North, and a worsening humanitarian crisis. President Paul Biya, 85, won a seventh seven-year term on October 7.

In the South West and North West, government security forces have committed extrajudicial executions, burned property, carried out arbitrary arrests, and tortured detainees. A Human Rights Watch report documented a range of abuses by both sides in the Anglophone regions, including arson attacks on homes and schools. According to the International Crisis Group, government forces and armed separatists killed over 420 civilians in the regions since the crisis escalated in 2017.

The humanitarian consequences of the Boko Haram attacks and separatist insurgency are of growing concern. As of November, the United Nations estimated that more than 244,000 civilians were displaced in the Far North and 437,500 in the Anglophone North West and South West regions. About 32,600 Cameroonians found refuge in Nigeria. Also, Cameroon has continued to forcibly return Nigerian asylum seekers, fleeing Boko Haram attacks in northeastern Nigeria.

While the government maintained it did not tolerate serious crimes committed by security forces, it failed to demonstrate progress in investigating and punishing them.

On October 22, Cameroon’s Constitutional Council validated Paul Biya’s reelection, with 71.28 percent of the votes. The council’s decision was immediately contested by one of Biya’s rivals, Maurice Kamto, who claimed the results had been altered. In early November, dozens of pro-Kamto protesters were arrested in Bafoussam, Western region. Biya was sworn-in for a seventh term as president on November 6.


African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD). 21 July 2017. Ateki Seta Caxton. "The Anglophone Dilemma in Cameroon - The Need for Comprehensive Dialogue and Reform ." [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018]

African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD). N.d. "About ACCORD ." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2018]

Al Jazeera. 1 October 2017. Azad Essa. "Cameroon's English-Speakers Call for Independence ." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2018]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 27 December 2017. "Cameroon to Deport US-Based Author Patrice Nganang ." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2018]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 9 November 2017. "Cameroon Issues Arrest Warrants for Separatist Leaders ." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2018]

Cable News Network (CNN). 2 January 2018. Kieron Monks. "Cameroon Goes Offline After Anglophone Revolt ." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2018]

Caritas Internationalis (Caritas). 15 May 2018. Harriet Paterson. They Are Hunting Us . [Accessed 3 Aug. 2018]

Deutsche Welle (DW). 25 January 2017. Moki Kindzeka. "Internet Blacked Out for English-Speaking Minority in Cameroon ." [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018]

International Crisis Group. 3 August 2018. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.

International Crisis Group. 27 July 2018. Tanda Theophilus. Dialogue is Essential to Unite Cameroon's Disparate Voices . [Accessed 1 Aug. 2018]

International Crisis Group. 19 October 2017. Cameroon's Worsening Anglophone Crisis Calls for Strong Measures . Crisis Group Africa Briefing No. 130. [Accessed 1 Aug. 2018]

Journal du Cameroun . 23 June 2018. Francis Ajumane. "Cameroon Government Targets 'More Separatist Leaders' for Arrest ." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2018]

Journal du Cameroun . 29 May 2018. "UN's Emergency Response Plan for Crisis Stricken Cameroon ." [Accessed 3 Aug. 2018]

Minority Rights Group International (MRG). [2017]. "Cameroon - Anglophones ." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2018]

Nouveaux droits de l'homme Cameroun (NDH-Cameroun) . August 2018. La situation des anglophones au Cameroun . Sent to the Research Directorate by a representative, 9 August 2018.

Researcher in transnational African migration. 9 August 2018. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Researcher in transnational African migration. 7 August 2018. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Reuters. 29 January 2018. Paul Carsten and Edward McAllister. "Update 2 - Cameroonian Separatist Leader Is Deported to Cameroon from Nigeria ." [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018]

Southern Cameroons Public Affairs Committee (SCAPAC) and Southern Cameroons Diaspora in the United States (Diaspora). April-May 2018. Human Rights Council. Joint Submission of Members of the Southern Cameroons Diaspora in the United States and the Southern Cameroons Public Affairs Committee . [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018]

United Kingdom (UK). 12 July 2018. GOV.UK. "Foreign Travel Advice: Cameroon ." [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018]

United Nations (UN). 29 May 2018. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). "Cameroon: Emergency Response Plan Seeks US$15M to Reach 160,000 Internally Displaced People in the Next Three Months ." [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018]

United Nations (UN). May 2018. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). 2018 Emergency Response Place: Summary. Cameroon: North-West and South-West . [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018]

United Nations (UN). 20 March 2018. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). "Anglophone Cameroonians in Nigeria Pass 20,000 Mark ." [Accessed 3 Aug. 2018]

United Nations (UN). 17 November 2017. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). "Cameroon: Human Rights Must Be Respected to End Cycle of Violence - UN Experts ." [Accessed 3 Aug. 2018]

United States (US). 20 April 2018. Department of State. "Cameroon." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 . [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018]

Applicable law

All parties to the conflict are bound by Article 3 common to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which provides for the minimum standards to be respected and requires humane treatment without adverse distinction of all persons not or no longer taking active parts in hostilities. It prohibits murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, hostage taking and unfair trials.

All parties are also bound by customary international humanitarian law applicable to non-international armed conflict. Customary international law consists of unwritten rules that come from a general practice accepted as law. Based on extensive study, the International Committee of the Red Cross maintains a database of customary international humanitarian law.

In addition to international humanitarian law, international human rights law continues to apply during times of armed conflict. Under human rights law, the territorial state has an obligation to prevent and investigate alleged violations, including by non-state actors. Non-state armed groups are increasingly considered to be bound by international human rights law if they exercise de facto control over some areas.

Cameroon Human Right 2017 Report April 2018 - History

During its 66th Ordinary Session, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) will consider the 6th Periodic Report of Cameroon pertaining to the implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Maputo Protocol, and the Kampala Convention. Human Rights Watch welcomes the submission of this state report and in conformity with Rules 74 and 75 of the Rules of Procedure of the ACHPR, Human Rights Watch (Observer Status number 17) submits this shadow report.

This report includes findings from Human Rights Watch research into the human rights situation of Cameroon. The report covers violations of the right to life (article 4) the right to equal protection under the law (article 3) arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and other ill treatments (article 5 and 6) and violations of freedom of speech and assembly (article 9, 10 & 11).

Background: Crisis in the Anglophone Regions

The Anglophone North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon have been embroiled in a deepening human rights and humanitarian crisis since late October 2016, when teachers, lawyers, students, and activists, who had long complained of what they perceive to be marginalization of the two regions by the central government, took to the streets to demand more recognition of their political, social, and cultural rights. Government forces have responded by violently cracking down on peaceful protests, arbitrarily arresting local activists and peaceful protesters, curtailing the activities of civil society, and blocking access to the internet. Armed separatists have also killed, tortured, and kidnapped dozens of civilians, including teachers, students, and government officials.The crisis has led to the displacement of over 679,000 people, deprived more than 600,000 children from schooling in the two Anglophone regions, and claimed more than 3,000 lives.

On September 10, amid increasing violence and following sustained international pressure, President Biya called for a "national dialogue," a series of nationwide discussions aimed at addressing the crisis. The dialogue ended with the adoption of a special status for the two Anglophone regions and the release of hundreds of political prisoners, including Maurice Kamto, leader of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) opposition party, and other persons arrested in connection with the unrest in the North-West and South-West regions.

Abuses by armed separatists

Armed separatists demanding the secession of the North-West and South-West regions from the Cameroonian state have killed, tortured, and kidnapped hundreds of civilians, including teachers, students, clergy, members and supporters of political parties, and government officials. Human Rights Watch has documented hundreds of cases of kidnapping of civilians by armed separatists. Most of the abductees were released after a ransom was paid.

Since early 2017, separatists have consistently targeted school buildings and threatened education officials and students with violence if they did not comply with separatist demands to boycott schools. They have also used schools as bases, deploying fighters and weapons in and near them, including in Koppin village (Mezam division), Tenkha village (Ngoketunjia division), and Mbuluf (Bui division), Bali (Mezam division).

In one case, on February 16, a group of armed separatists abducted 170 students, mostly girls under 18, a teacher, and two guards from a boarding school in Kumbo, North-West region. They were all released the following day amid rumors of ransoms being paid..

On June 18, separatists kidnapped at least 40 people, including women and children, beat and robbed them in Bafut, North-West region. They were released the following day.

On June 28, armed separatists beat and kidnapped John Fru Ndi, a well-known Cameroonian politician, from his home in Bamenda, North-West region. Three days before, armed separatists abducted and released another high-profile figure, Cornelius Fontem Esua, the archbishop of Bamenda.

In November, members of the Restoration Forces armed separatist group kidnapped 20 candidates for the February 9, 2020 municipal elections in the town of Jakiri, North-West region. The officials were held in a small house near a separatist camp in Vekovi village. They were released on December 8, after ransom payments believed to range between the amounts of 250,000 and 500,000 CFA ($419-$838) were paid for each abductee.

On January 5, 2020, armed separatists from the Restoration Forces group led by a commander known as "General Man Pass Man" kidnapped the mayor of Babessi, North-West region, along with four council members in Babessi. The Restoration Forces released them on January 22, following a ransom payment of 1,000,000 CFA (US$1,678). The separatists had also kidnapped and tortured the Babessi mayor in June 2019.

Violations of Freedom of Assembly and Arbitrary Arrest and Detention of Opposition Members and Supporters (Articles 9, 10 &11)

Throughout 2019 Cameroonian authorities and security forces arrested hundreds of members and supporters of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) opposition party and violently dispersed peaceful protests.

In late January 2019, CRM leader Maurice Kamto was arbitrarily arrested along with over 200 members and supporters of his party, including his closest advisors. Security forces fired teargas into the crowd and rubber bullets from close range to disperse protesters.

Kamto and other CRM leaders were unable to meet their lawyers for several days and were later charged before a military court with a number of offenses including hostility against the homeland, threats to public order and rebellion. Those charges appeared to be politically motivated.

In June 2019, at least 350 CRM members and supporters were arbitrarily arrested after they attempted to hold demonstrations across the country.

Almost all CRM members and supporters, including Kamto, were released on October 5, following a Presidential decree. Sixteen of them, however, including Mamadou Yacouba, CRM Vice President, remain in detention as of February 2020.

Issues not addressed in the 6th Periodic Report:

Cameroon's 6th Periodic Report (the Report) does not mention the arbitrary arrest and detention of opposition members or of the violent dispersal of demonstrators by members of the security forces. It also does not describe any measures taken by the Government of Cameroon to mitigate violations of freedom of assembly and public demonstration. The Report states instead that "freedom of assembly and public demonstration is guaranteed by Law No. 90/55." However, the government of Cameroon failed to uphold those freedoms for opposition members arrested during and following peaceful demonstrations, as documented by Human Rights Watch.

The arbitrary arrest and detention of hundreds of opposition members and supporters and the subsequent impediment of their access to legal assistance is contrary to Cameroon's own laws pertaining to freedom of assembly and its obligations as a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. It also reflects a climate of rapidly shrinking political and civic space.

Suggested questions for the ACHPR to pose to the delegation from the government of Cameroon:

Could you please provide a response to allegations of torture documented in an August 2019 report by Human Rights Watch including the incommunicado detention and torture in detention of more than 100 detainees in the State Defense Secretariat (SED) between July 23 -August 4, 2019 in Yaoundé?

Has the government initiated any investigations into allegations of abuse and torture in detention by security forces, including the following:

The enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention of 26 individuals between January 2018 and January 2019 in the SED detention site

The torture of 14 individuals between January 2018 and January 2019 in the SED detention site.

The alleged systematic use of torture to extract confessions from detainees in the SED detention site.

Has the government initiated any investigations into allegations of abuses by security forces in the context of counter-insurgency operations in the North-West and South-West regions, including:

The destruction of property in the North-West and South-West regions between November 2018 and January 2020, including the burning of more than 60 homes in Abuh village in November 2018.

Alleged unlawful killings of civilians by security forces in the North-West and South-West regions since November 2018.

Have there been any prosecutions, convictions or disciplinary actions taken against officials or security force members involved in the human rights violations described in the August 2019 Human Rights Watch report? If so, could you provide detailed information about the number of cases, the nature of the crimes, the actions taken, and the status of the cases?

Has the government taken any concrete measures to mitigate further abuses by security forces? If so, could you please provide any details and documentation of these measures?


Human Rights Watch urges the government of Cameroon to:

Immediately end the practice of arbitrary arrests and detention of civilians, including opposition members and supporters, for exercising their freedom of expression and assembly.

Immediately put an end to the use of military courts to try civilians.

Ensure that security forces deployed to protests with the purpose of protecting public order are trained to respect human rights during their operations and refrain from using excessive force.

Monitor failures to implement domestic laws and policies related to freedom of expression and assembly.

Thoroughly investigate all allegations of excessive use of force by members of the security forces during protests, regardless of victims' political affiliation, and ensure that those implicated in abuses are adequately disciplined.

Human Rights Violations by Government Forces

Human Rights Watch's research shows how human rights violations by government forces have been rife since the crisis in the Anglophone regions began in late 2016. Security forces have killed civilians, burned dozens of villages, and arbitrarily arrested and tortured hundreds of alleged armed separatists.

Destruction of property (article 14)

In one case, security forces burned down more than 60 homes in Abuh village, North-West region, in a three-day security operation carried out in November 2018. Human Rights Watch has confirmed the burning through satellite imagery.

On November 22, 2018 gendarmes burned at least 13 houses in Bali village, North-West region.

Between December 3 and 6, 2018, following clashes between the military and armed separatists, security forces burned over 55 houses in areas of Kumbo known as SAC Junction and Romajay, as well as in Meluf, Kikaikom, and Nyaro, North-West region. Human Rights Watch confirmed the burning of houses through satellite imagery consistent with witnesses' accounts.

On May 15, 2019, following the killing of two Air Force soldiers by suspected armed separatists, security forces burned over 70 homes in Mankon, Bamenda, North-West region. Human Rights Watch confirmed the burning through satellite imagery consistent with witnesses' accounts.

Between January 17 and 20, 2020, security forces searching for armed separatists burned down over 50 homes in Bali, North-West region. Human Rights Watch confirmed the burning through satellite imagery consistent with witnesses' accounts.

Unlawful killings (articles 4 & 5)

On October 21, 2018 soldiers and gendarmes attacked Rom and Nsah villages and unlawfully killed at least four civilians, including a young man with a physical disability.

On December 5, 2018 the army unlawfully killed seven people in Meluf village, North-West region, including a 70-year-old man with a hearing impairment who was burned inside his neighbor's home.

On January 18, 2019 soldiers unlawfully killed a 28-year-old nurse who was seven months pregnant, while she was on her way to work in Kumbo, North-West region.

On February 6, 2019 soldiers from the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) stormed the market of Bole Bakundu village, South-West region, and unlawfully killed up to 10 men. Community members said they believed that security forces were retaliating against civilians accused of collaborating with the separatists.

On April 4, 2019, Cameroonian soldiers, gendarmes, and members of the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) carried out a deadly attack on the North-West region village of Meluf. They unlawfully killed five civilian men, including one with a mental disability. Three of the bodies were later found mutilated, including one that had been decapitated.

On May 15, 2019, following the killing of two Air Force soldiers by suspected armed separatists, security forces unlawfully killed a 41-year-old man in Alachu, Bamenda, North-West region.

On July 10, 2019, soldiers from the Cameroonian Air Force, unlawfully killed a 20-year-old man with a mental disability, and another civilian, during security operations searching for armed separatists in Alachu neighborhood of the city of Bamenda, north-West region.

Soldiers, including members of the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), and gendarmes unlawfully killed at least 4 civilians, including two men with intellectual disabilities, in a security operation in Bali village between January 17- 20, 2020.

Torture and incommunicado detention (articles 3, 5, & 6)

The Government of Cameroon publicly declared in 2017 that torture does not take place in Cameroon, however Human Rights Watch continues to receive reports of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment in detention. Cameroon's Periodic Report fails to demonstrate any progress on investigating the use of torture in detention and does not provide any evidence of cases brought before courts to hold to account security force members implicated in torture or ill-treatment in detention since 2017.

Human Rights Watch documented 26 cases of incommunicado detention and enforced disappearance and 14 cases of torture at the State Defense Secretariat (Secretariat d'Etat a la defense, SED) in Yaoundé between January 2018 and January 2019. Between July 23 and August 4, 2019 Cameroonian authorities held more than 100 people in incommunicado detention and tortured many of them in the SED prison in Yaoundé. Former detainees described low- to mid-ranking gendarmes using methods of torture, including severe beatings and near drownings, to humiliate, punish, and extract confessions from detainees, most of whom were civilians detained for suspected ties to armed separatist groups.

Human Rights Watch also documented that Cameroonian authorities held over 100 detainees in incommunicado detention and tortured many of them in SED, Yaoundé, from July 23 to August 4, 2019. The detainees were transferred to the facility the morning after inmates in Yaoundé's Central Prison rioted on July 22 in protest against overcrowding, dire living conditions, and delays in their cases getting to trial. The whereabouts of the majority of the detainees was unknown for almost two weeks. On August 3, 2019 the day after official acknowledgement of the whereabouts of the detainees, some lawyers were finally able to meet with some of their clients at the SED. Human Rights Watch interviewed 14 detainees held at the SED, all of whom said they were tortured and held incommunicado during their time there, and heard credible accounts that scores more were also tortured.

Sexual violence (articles 3 & 4, Maputo Protocol)

Cameroon's 6th Periodic Report states that "from 2013 to 2017, 313 elements of Defence (sic) Forces were prosecuted before the courts for different offences," including rape and attempted rape, and notes that 30 of the 313 were convicted and sentenced. The Report however fails to provide evidence of any efforts on the part of the Government of Cameroon to prosecute those implicated in human rights violations, including sexual violence, committed in the Anglophone regions since late 2017, or any details of cases brought against security forces which were tried before courts.

Economy: A Prosperous Nation

Since becoming independent in 1960, Cameroon has become one of the most prosperous Africa states, standing as the largest economy in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). To protect its economy from recession and maintain confidence in its currency, the Central African CFA franc, Cameroon employs strict fiscal adjustment measures.

Cameroon enjoys a positive trade stance thanks to its exports of natural resources, including petroleum, minerals, timber, and agricultural products, such as coffee, cotton, cocoa, maize, and cassava. Based mainly on its production of natural gas, Cameroon’s economy was predicted by the World Bank to grow by 4.3% in 2020.

Rights Groups Doubt Cameroon Military’s Massacre Investigation

YAOUNDE – Rights groups in Cameroon doubt the military’s claim it will properly investigate the latest alleged massacre of civilians by its troops. Activists and witnesses say the military killed 10 villagers Sunday, including women and children, while attempting to fight separatists. Cameroon’s military denies it was responsible, a line that has been questioned in past cases. Thirty-seven-year-old teacher Jacob Mende says he fled Cameroon’s southwestern village of Mautu after witnessing the military on Sunday shooting civilians. “Cameroon military invaded the village of Mautu,” he said, speaking via a messaging&hellip

Refugees and asylum-seekers

At least 250,000 refugees from the Central African Republic lived in harsh conditions in crowded camps or with host families along border areas of southeastern Cameroon. Some 60,000 refugees from Nigeria lived in the UN-run Minawao camp in the Far North region around 30,000 others struggled to cope outside the camp, facing food insecurity, lack of access to basic services, harassment by the security forces and the risk of refoulement as they were perceived to be supporters of Boko Haram.

On 2 March, Cameroon, Nigeria and UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, signed a “Tripartite Agreement for the Voluntary Repatriation of Nigerian Refugees Living in Cameroon”. However, between January and September, Cameroon forcibly returned at least 4,400 Nigerians. These forced returns were part of a larger deportation operation carried out by Cameroon. Human Rights Watch estimated that, since 2015, Cameroonian authorities and security forces had summarily deported more than 100,000 Nigerians living in areas located along the Cameroon-Nigeria border, often with unnecessary and excessive use of force. Some of those forcibly returned, including children, weakened by living for months or years with limited or no access to food and health care, died during the deportations.

In December, UNHCR reported having registered more than 5,000 Cameroonians, mainly women and children, who had fled the Anglophone areas of Cameroon to Nigeria.

A 2002 report by the UK charity Freedom from Torture said that "The prevalence of torture in Cameroon was such as to warrant a country visit from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture in 1999. He described the use of torture in Cameroon as 'widespread and systematic.'" [2]

In its 2012 Annual Review, Freedom from Torture stated that they had received 33 referrals for torture survivors from Cameroon for clinical treatment or other services.

Amnesty International reported concerns about violence by security forces. In 2009, around 100 civilians were killed during demonstrations [3]

In April 2010, Germain Cyrille Ngota Ngota, the editor of the Cameroun Express, died in custody at Kondengui Central Prison. [4] He had been jailed pending trial in February 2010 along with the editors of two other newspapers, for the alleged "joint forgery" of the signature of a presidential official. One of the editors said that the document in question had merely been attached to an interview request, whilst the journalist who had originated the document was on the run. [5] "The Federation of African Journalists after visiting the country described Cameroon in May 2010 as 'one of the worst jailers of journalists in Africa'." [4] [6]

The following table gives Cameroon's ratings since 1972 in the Freedom in the World reports, published annually by Freedom House. A score of 1 is "most free" and 7 is "least free". [7] 1

Cameroon's stances on international human rights treaties are as follows:

Amnesty International Report 2017/18 - Cameroon

The armed group Boko Haram continued to commit serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in the Far North region, including looting and destroying properties and killing and abducting civilians. In response, the authorities and security forces committed human rights violations and crimes under international law, including arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, torture and deaths in custody. As a result of the conflict, around 240,000 people in the Far North region had fled their homes between 2014 and the end of 2017. Freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly continued to be restricted throughout the country. Security forces violently repressed demonstrations in Anglophone regions in January and September. Civil society activists, journalists, trade unionists and teachers were arrested and some faced trial before military courts.


The armed group Boko Haram committed crimes under international law and human rights abuses, including suicide bombings in civilian areas, summary executions, abductions, recruitment of child soldiers, and looting and destruction of public and private property. During the year, the group carried out at least 150 attacks, including 48 suicide bombings, killing at least 250 civilians. The crimes were part of a widespread and systematic attack on the civilian population across the Lake Chad basin. Boko Haram deliberately targeted civilians in attacks on markets, mosques, commercial areas and other public places. On 12 July a female suicide bomber detonated explosives in a crowded video-game shop in the town of Waza, killing at least 16 civilians and injuring more than 30. On 5 August, a suicide bomber in the village of Ouro Kessoum, near Amchide, killed eight children and injured four more.


Security forces continued to arbitrarily arrest individuals accused of supporting Boko Haram, often with little or no evidence and sometimes using unnecessary or excessive force. Those arrested were frequently detained in inhumane, life-threatening conditions. At least 101 people were detained incommunicado between March 2013 and March 2017 in a series of military bases run by the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) and facilities run by the intelligence agency. They were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.[1] These routine and systematic practices continued throughout 2017, although at least 20 people were reported to have been transferred from the BIR military base in Salak to the central prison in Maroua in late August.

It was highly likely that senior military officers based in Salak were aware of the torture, but they did nothing to prevent it. US military personnel also had a regular presence at the BIR's base at Salak and an investigation was launched into their possible knowledge of human rights violations at the base its outcomes were not published during the year.

No investigations were known to have been conducted by the Cameroonian authorities into the allegations of incommunicado detention, torture and other ill-treatment, nor efforts made to prevent such occurrences or to prosecute and punish the perpetrators.

In December the UN Committee against Torture expressed deep concern about the use of torture and incommunicado detention, and criticized the failure by Cameroonian authorities to clarify whether investigations were being carried out.


Human rights defenders, including civil society activists, journalists, trade unionists, lawyers and teachers continued to be intimidated, harassed and threatened.

On 17 January, following protests in the English-speaking regions of the country, the Minister of Territorial Administration banned the activities of the political party Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) and the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC).[2] The same day, the president of the CACSC, barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla, and its Secretary General, Dr Fontem Aforteka'a Neba, were arrested after signing a statement calling for non-violent protests. Held incommunicado at the State Defence Secretariat, they were charged under the 2014 anti-terrorism law, without any basis. They were transferred to the Prison Principale in the capital, Yaoundé, before eventually being released following a presidential decision on 30 August, along with 53 other Anglophone protesters who had been arrested between late October 2016 and February 2017.

Between January and April, and in early October, telephone and internet services were cut in the English-speaking regions, with no official explanation.

On 24 May, authorities shut down an Amnesty International press conference scheduled to take place in Yaoundé. Amnesty International staff had planned to present more than 310,000 letters and petitions asking President Biya to release three students imprisoned for 10 years for sharing a joke by text message about Boko Haram. No written administrative justification was provided for the prohibition of the press conference.

More than 20 protesters were shot by security forces in the Anglophone regions between 1 and 2 October, and more than 500 arrested. Others wounded in the protests were forced to flee hospitals where they sought life-saving treatment out of fear of arrest. In addition, dozens of members of the security forces, including soldiers and gendarmes, were killed in attacks perpetrated by Anglophone insurgents in the South and North West regions during the year.


Unfair trials continued before military courts, which were often marred by irregularities.

On 10 April, Radio France Internationale correspondent Ahmed Abba was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment, convicted by the Yaoundé Military Court of "complicity with and non-denunciation of terrorist acts". The trial was marred by irregularities, including documents not being disclosed to defence lawyers. Ahmed Abba had been arrested in Maroua in July 2015 and was tortured while held incommunicado for three months at a facility run by the General Directorate of External Research. On 21 December the Appeal Court of the Yaoundé Military Court ordered his initial sentence to be reduced to 24 months, which he had already served. The Court upheld the charge of "non-denunciation of terrorism".

The appeal of Fomusoh Ivo Feh, who was arrested in December 2014 for forwarding a sarcastic text message about Boko Haram and sentenced to 10 years in prison, had not begun at the end of the year. Scheduled to begin in December 2016, his hearings had been adjourned at least seven times.

On 30 October, journalists Rodrigue Tongué, Felix Ebole Bola and Baba Wamé were acquitted by the Yaoundé Military Court, having been initially charged in October 2014 with "non-denunciation of information and sources". Facing trial alongside the journalists were opposition party leader Aboubakary Siddiki, and Abdoulaye Harissou, a well-known notary detained since August 2014. The Yaoundé Military Court sentenced Aboubakary Siddiki to 25 years' imprisonment on charges including hostility against the homeland, revolution, and contempt of the President. Abdoulaye Harissou was sentenced to three years' imprisonment, and subsequently released having already served this sentence. Their trial was marred by irregularities. During their initial period of detention, the two men had been held incommunicado for more than 40 days in an illegal facility run by the General Directorate of External Relations and subjected to torture.

Prison conditions remained poor, marked by chronic overcrowding, inadequate food, limited medical care, and deplorable hygiene and sanitation. Maroua prison housed around 1,500 detainees, more than four times its intended capacity. The population of the central prison in Yaoundé was approximately 4,400, despite a maximum capacity of 1,500. The main factors contributing to overcrowding included the mass arrests since 2014 of people accused of supporting Boko Haram, the large number of detainees held without charge, and the ineffective judicial system. The government finalized the construction of at least 10 new cells for the prison in Maroua.


At least 250,000 refugees from the Central African Republic lived in harsh conditions in crowded camps or with host families along border areas of southeastern Cameroon. Some 60,000 refugees from Nigeria lived in the UN-run Minawao camp in the Far North region around 30,000 others struggled to cope outside the camp, facing food insecurity, lack of access to basic services, harassment by the security forces and the risk of refoulement as they were perceived to be supporters of Boko Haram.

On 2 March, Cameroon, Nigeria and UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, signed a "Tripartite Agreement for the Voluntary Repatriation of Nigerian Refugees Living in Cameroon". However, between January and September, Cameroon forcibly returned at least 4,400 Nigerians. These forced returns were part of a larger deportation operation carried out by Cameroon. Human Rights Watch estimated that, since 2015, Cameroonian authorities and security forces had summarily deported more than 100,000 Nigerians living in areas located along the Cameroon-Nigeria border, often with unnecessary and excessive use of force. Some of those forcibly returned, including children, weakened by living for months or years with limited or no access to food and health care, died during the deportations.

In December, UNHCR reported having registered more than 5,000 Cameroonians, mainly women and children, who had fled the Anglophone areas of Cameroon to Nigeria.


The conflict with Boko Haram led to the internal displacement of around 240,000 people in the Far North region and exacerbated the hardships experienced by communities, limiting their access to basic social services, and disrupting trade, farming and pastoralism. In December, almost 3.3 million people, of whom 61% were in the Far North region, were in need of humanitarian assistance, including food and medical care. Humanitarian access continued to be restricted by the ongoing conflict.


Dozens of schools were closed in the English-speaking regions between November 2016 and September 2017, following strikes and boycotts called for by trade unions and members of civil society. Extreme elements within Anglophone pro-secession groups carried out attacks on education facilities that "breached the boycott".

Between January and September 2017, more than 30 schools were burned and severely damaged. In the Far North region, 139 primary schools in the departments of Logone and Chari, Mayo Sava and Mayo Tsanaga remained closed because of insecurity and at least eight were occupied by security forces, affecting almost 40,000 children.


People accused of supporting Boko Haram continued to be sentenced to death following unfair trials in military courts none were executed during the year. The cases were all prosecuted under the deeply flawed 2014 anti-terrorism law.

[1] Cameroon's secret torture chambers: Human rights violations and war crimes in the fight against Boko Haram (AFR 17/6536/2017)

[2] Cameroon: Arrests and civil society bans risk inflaming tensions in English-speaking regions (Press release, 20 January)

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