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Cameroon : civil society organizations raise the alarm over deteriorating human rights situation



31 May 2019

To all UN SecurityCouncil Members

Your Excellency,

Ahead of the upcoming briefing of the UnitedNations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) in the UN Security Councilin June, we, the undersigned organizations, would urge you to please payparticular attention to the deteriorating humanitarian and human rightssituation in Cameroon.

Political conflict over cultural rights andidentity, as well as long-standing socio-economic grievances have escalated inCameroon's Anglophone regions since 2016 when English-speaking lawyers,students and teachers began protesting against what they see as theirunder-representation in, and cultural marginalization by, the centralgovernment. Since then, a crisis in the Anglophone North-West and South-West regionshas pit government security forces and armed separatists against each other andhas driven more than 560,000 Cameroonians from their homes, including 32,000refugees into Nigeria.

Civil society organizations and nationaland international human rights and humanitarian groups report that governmentforces have killed civilians, torched villages, and used torture andincommunicado detention with near total impunity.

Meanwhile, armed separatists have killed,tortured, assaulted and kidnapped dozens of people, including students, teachers,administrative and traditional authorities amid increasing violence acrossthe North-West and South-West regions. Schools and hospitals, teachers and medical staff, are increasingly underattack. Journalists have also been detained and at least four are behind barsin relation to their reporting of the crisis, while members of the media face regularthreats of arrest and attacks. These abuses are fomenting severe instabilityacross the regions and show that the government of Cameroon is failing touphold its Responsibility to Protect the Anglophone population. Without expeditiousaction, the situation is likely to worsen.

The UN Security Council has largely keptsilent on the crisis. Even getting the Council to discuss Cameroon has provendifficult. A recent informal SecurityCouncil meeting almost did not take place due to a lack of support from Africanmember States.

As you prepare your remarks for the UNOCAbriefing, we respectfully urge you to consider the following recommendations:

· TheUN Security Council should hold regular formal briefings and discussions on thesituation in Cameroon and formally add it to its agenda. It should request theUN Secretary-General and keysenior UN officials - especially the Office of theHigh Commissioner for Human Rights – to report regularly on developments inCameroon.

· Whilewe should not wait for the region to mobilize before taking action in New York,the African Union and Economic Community of Central African States shouldengage with Cameroon'sgovernment and armed separatists in order to prevent anyfurther deterioration of the crisis in the Anglophone regions. In this context,the African countries on the Council have a crucial role to play in facilitatingmediation efforts.

· Thelack of access for international human rights and humanitarian organizations toCameroon and its affected regions remains disturbing. The government ofCameroon should allow unhindered access to international and national humanrights organizations.

· Cameroon’spartners should ensure that any support to Cameroonian security forces does notcontribute to or facilitate human rights violations. The UN Security Council, withthe support of the OHCHR, should urge the Cameroon authorities to investigatemembers of the security forces alleged to have carried out human rights abuses andprosecute those responsible. It should also publicly announce to armedseparatist groups that their leaders will be held responsible for seriouscrimes committed by their fighters.

· Theinternational community should encourage mediation between Anglophonecommunities and the government, as well as an inclusive national dialogue inorder to find a lasting and sustainable solution to the crisis, which addressesroot causes and underlying grievances.

Signed,

1. Action by Christians for theAbolition of Torture (ACAT-France)

2. Amnesty International

3. Committee to Protect Journalists(CPJ)

4. Global Centre for theResponsibility to Protect

5. Human Rights Watch

6. Nouveaux Droits de l’HommeCameroun

7. Presbyterian Church (USA)

8. Réseaudes Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)

9. World Organisation AgainstTorture (OMCT)

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