Amnesty International has called on Cameroon for urgent investigation into the death of 25 prisoners and disappearance of 130 people after raids by security forces.
Steve Cockburn, Amnesty Deputy Regional Director, appealed to Cameroonian authorities to launch an independent, impartial and rigorous investigation into the killings, disappearances and detentions.
“We can’t have a situation where the population is scared of the people who are protecting them.
“What that means concretely is a change of tactics to avoid the type of operation that leads to the mass arrests we have seen,’’ he said.
He said this has caused raising concern about possible abuses arising from a crackdown on Islamist Boko Haram militants.
Cockburn said the Nigerian insurgent group had committed war crimes in neighbouring northern Cameroon by killing more than 380 civilians since the start of 2014.
“In one attack in October, Boko Haram shot or slit the throats of at least 30 people in the border town of Ambchide.
“While providing protection to civilians in northern Cameroon, security forces had committed serious human rights violations.
“More than 1,000 suspects had been detained in raids by authorities on villages, in which homes were destroyed and civilians killed,’’ it said.
He said investigation had revealed that overcrowding, lack of sanitation and inadequate health care in a prison in Maroua had led to the death of at least 40 prisoners between March and May.
Cockburn called for a rapid improvement in conditions of detention.
He voiced concern that an offensive against Boko Haram due to be launched this year by an 8,700-strong regional force composed of troops from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin could lead to more abuses.
“That brings with it the risk of future human rights violations unless there are further measures taken to prevent the sort of mass arrests and other violations that we have seen over the last months.