Alert: Sudan military coup puts human rights at risk

Cameroon: Death sentence marks a new turn in the Anglophone Crisis

Joint position paper

Geneva / Buea, 7 October 2021 – For the first time since the beginning of the anglophone crisis four men have been sentenced to death after a court found them guilty of a deadly shooting at a school in 2020. The Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) are worried that death penalty might become the new punitive tool of the Cameroonian authorities to address this crisis. While encouraging the government to provide redress for serious human rights impairment, rights organisations strongly oppose this sentence.

On 7 September 2021, the Military Tribunal in Buea, Cameroon, sentenced four men to death. The accused were standing trial before the Court for the massacre of at least seven students during a shooting at a school in the Southwest Region on 24 October 2020.

Escalation of violence in the Anglophone Crisis

This death sentence is unprecedented in the Anglophone Crisis and might represent a new turning point in addressing this security and human rights crisis that has escalated over the years, from a strike of teachers and lawyers in October 2016 to major human rights violations, arbitrary arrests and unfair trials.

Since the beginning of the crisis over 790,000 people have been forcibly displaced, allegedly 4,000 killed, and torture has been routinely used. On 20 August, 2019 , the leader of the Anglophone separatist movement, Sisiku Julius Ayuk and nine other leaders of the separatist movement were sentenced to life imprisonment by the military court in Yaoundé. Most of the people arrested, including Barrister Agbor Balla, Mancho Bibixy Tse and other civil society organisation leaders have been prosecuted and sentenced on charges including treason, terrorism, civil unrest, and undermining the peace and unity of the Republic of Cameroon. Separatist fighters have also perpetrated numerous gross human rights violations including attacks on schools and the killing of children.

On 16 September, following a new separatist attack against the Defense and Security Forces which led to the killing of at least 15 soldiers, the government announced the intensification of its military operations in the regions in crisis.

The various responses meant to address this crisis in a sustainable manner have only made the situation worse. The use of the death penalty in this already violent context can only lead to a further escalation of violence.

It is not the first time that the Cameroonian government uses death penalty as a deterrence against insurgent groups. To fight the Boko Haram terrorists in northern part of the country since 2014, a similar tactic involving massive arbitrary arrests of hundreds of people, including without further investigation and charging them with offenses punishable by death was a common practice. for instance in 2020, three women were sentenced to death after fleeing Boko Haram. Not only they were minor, but also pregnant or nursing mothers for some. This new trend towards the use of the death sentence to address security crisis is extremely worrying.

Read our joint paper here

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) is the largest global NGO group actively standing up to torture and protecting human rights defenders worldwide. It has more than 200 members in 90 countries. Its international Secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) is an independent, non-governmental, apolitical and non-profit making organization created in 2005, dedicated to the protection and advancement of human rights and the promotion of democracy as a political culture in Africa. The CHRDA is based in Buea in the Southwest region of Cameroon.

For more information, please contact :

OMCT: Iolanda Jaquemet, Director of Communications, +41 79 539 41 06

CHRDA: Aken Kelvin Nkwain Human Rights Officer
, +237 672070167

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