United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called for an immediate investigation into gross human rights violations in Cameroon. The announcement came as Zeid said he was especially “appalled” by video footage of reportedly armed State soldiers executing a woman, child and a baby who were accused of belonging to a separatist militant group. The violence engulfing the English-speaking north-west and south-west regions of the country has forced thousands to flee to neighboring Nigeria to seek refuge.
The exact causes of the internal conflicts are unclear as Cameroon has denied the UN access, but there have been incessant clashes between government troops and armed militias. Earlier this month, an armed group unleashed an ambush on a government convoy which Zeid also condemned.
Many residents of the region continue to pour into Nigeria and other neighboring nations. UN humanitarian workers estimate that over 21,000 have fled the country and up to 160,000 people are internally displaced. UN sources say thousands others are taking refuge in deep forests to escape the escalating tensions.
“There are reports that armed elements have carried out kidnappings, targeted killings of police and local authorities, extortion and have torched schools,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said. “There are also reports that Government forces are responsible for killings, the excessive use of force, burning down of houses, arbitrary detentions and torture.”
Zeid has urged the government to investigate the human rights abuses taking place by both government forces and armed insurgent groups. He said the UN was “deeply worried that these killings captured on camera may not be isolated cases.”
He also encouraged the Cameroonian government to actively look into the northern part of the West African country where the terrorist group Boko Haram is in operation.
Zeid stated that since the Cameroonian government has denied UN officials access to investigate and report on these gross violations of human rights, the UN Human Rights Office will have no choice but “we will now need to explore other options, include remote monitoring.”