Cameroon dismisses Amnesty report on war crimes in fight against Boko Haram

Cameroonian soldiers pictured on June 14, 2014 in Mora in northern Cameroon. A new Amnesty International report accuses the forces of torturing civilians in the fight against Boko Haram militants. PHOTO | FILE 

Cameroon has dismissed a report by Amnesty International that accuses the country's army of torturing civilians in the fight against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, saying the London-based rights group is defending terrorists’ interest.

Cameroon communication minister and government spokesperson Issa Tchiroma Bakary told a press conference in Yaounde late Friday that Amnesty International is on a campaign to destabilise the country by demoralising the defence and security forces.

“The accumulation of false and gross findings by Amnesty International prove that we are faced with a real destabilisation campaign whose objectives are clear,” Mr Tchiroma said at the press conference also attended by the spokesperson of the defence forces Col Didier Badjeck.

Smear campaign

He added: “Amnesty International is playing the role of an organisation defending terrorist interests with the aim of tarnishing the image of the defence and security forces in the eyes of international partners.”
In its report titled Cameroon's Secret Torture Chambers: Human Rights Violations and War Crimes in the Fight Against Boko Haram,” Amnesty International alleges that hundreds of people accused of supporting Boko Haram in Cameroon are being brutally tortured by security forces leading to dozens of death.

The advocacy group said it has documented 101 cases of arbitrary arrests and torture by Cameroonian forces between 2013 and 2017 in more than 20 sites.

But Mr Tchiroma argued that even when arrested with weapons in their hands, the army does not subject the “bloodthirsty Boko Haram criminals” to extra-judicial killings, and that the same security forces cannot be reduced to perpetrating atrocities against its own population.

“If our army carried out extra-judiciary killings as Amnesty International claims, would there be more than a thousand Boko Haram prisoners in our prisons treated humanely, as is the case today, in spite of the unspeakable atrocities committed by the militants against the civilian populations?” Issa Tchiroma questioned.

Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Cameroon communication minister and government spokesperson. He says that Amnesty International is on a campaign to destabilise the country. PHOTO: NDI EUGENE NDI

Court judgment
He said when arrested, suspected Boko Haram fighters are investigated and taken to a competent court for judgment, in accordance to the rules of the law, and that “significant financial resources” are made available for their care and rehabilitation while in detention.

Boko Haram launched its insurgency in 2009 aiming to create an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria, but has spread its mutiny to other countries of the Lake Chad Basin namely Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

A regional multinational joint taskforce comprising troops from the four countries has been fighting to bring the terrorist group to its knees since 2015.

According to Amnesty International, the insurgents have killed more than 1,500 civilians in Cameroon and abducted many others especially in the Far North region since 2014.
“We have repeatedly and unequivocally condemned the atrocities and war crimes committed by Boko Haram in Cameroon,” said Alioune Tine, Amnesty’s regional director for West and Central Africa.

He added: “But nothing could justify the callous and widespread practice of torture committed by the security forces against ordinary Cameroonians, who are often arrested without evidence and forced to endure unimaginable pain.

He called for an independent investigations saying that "these horrific violations amount to war crimes.”

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