New York — Members of the United Nations Security Council should focus on the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in Cameroon at the June 4, 2019 briefing by the UN Regional Office for Central Africa, nine human rights organizations said today in an open letter to Security Council members.
While UN Regional Office for Central Africa briefings are an opportunity to formally raise the situation in Cameroon at the Security Council, the groups also urged the Security Council to formally add Cameroon to its agenda as a regular stand-alone item. "The UN Security Council has largely kept silent on the crisis," the organizations said. "Without expeditious action, the situation is likely to worsen."
Cameroon's Anglophone regions have been engulfed in crisis since late 2016, when English-speaking lawyers, students, and teachers began protesting against what they saw as their under-representation in, and cultural marginalization by, the central government. In response, government security forces have killed civilians, torched villages, and used torture and incommunicado detention, while armed separatists have also killed, tortured, and kidnapped dozens of people.
This violence, especially abuse by state security forces, occurs in an atmosphere of near total impunity. This week's Central Africa briefing should serve as opportunity to urge the Cameroon authorities to investigate and prosecute members of the security forces alleged to have carried out human rights abuses. It should also publicly assert to armed separatist groups that their leaders will be held responsible for serious crimes committed by their fighters, the groups said.
The lack of access to Cameroon and its affected regions is hindering efforts by international human rights and humanitarian organizations to report on abuses and to deliver life-saving assistance to those in need. The Cameroon government should allow unhindered access to international and national human rights organizations, the groups said.
The groups that signed the letter are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Nouveaux Droits de l'Homme Cameroun (NDH - Cameroon), World Organisation Against Torture, Presbyterian Church (USA), and Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network).