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Hidden from critical view: the disappeared of Cameroon


As the number of military personnel deployed to fight Boko Haram in the Far North Region of Cameroon has increased, the number of people detained without trial on suspicion of supporting the armed group has gone up, as well.

Families and communities torn apart

Since 2014, Cameroon’s security forces have arrested hundreds of people without charge during security operations.

One man from the village of Double told us how security forces raided the village in search of suspected Boko Haram fighters:

“Early in the morning, we heard gunshots and thought it was Boko Haram. We were scared and fled to the bush; then people called us to say it wasn’t Boko Haram, but the security forces, so we came back thinking we were safe. However, to our great surprise, those forces made us suffer even more than Boko Haram.”

During this operation carried out in Double and in the neighbouring community, Magdeme, nine people were killed and more than 200 boys and men arbitrarily arrested. At least 130 of them have been missing since then. Their families don’t know about their fate and whereabouts, while the Cameroon government has claimed to have no knowledge of them at all.

Losing people in this way inevitably has a big impact on the village as a whole. As the breadwinners are not around anymore, their family members are left to struggle financially and emotionally, while searching for the truth about their missing loved ones.

“Since my father was arrested by the BIR, he’s unaccounted for. I’ve done all I can to find him, I’ve looked everywhere, but all my efforts were vain. This situation is so painful for me. I suffer a lot. I want to see my father, I want to see him alive, and that’s my only wish now.” - a 31-year old man explained to us how the Rapid Intervention Battalion detained his father in Maroua.

A woman showing the photo of her missing loved one

A woman showing the photo of her missing loved one © Vincent Tremeau/Amnesty International

Tortured to confess

Many of those accused of sympathising with Boko Haram have ended up in unofficial detention sites and been held without any access to a lawyer or their families. These practices place them outside the protection of the law, and leave them at high risk of torture.

As we are not allowed access to these detention sites, it is difficult to know the full scale of the violations. We have documented 29 cases between November 2014 and October 2015 of people who were tortured to confess guilt. Six of these people died in custody.

The actual number of torture cases is likely to be much higher.

Protect people, protect their rights

There is a need for the Cameroonian government, together with the security forces, to protect the people from the deadly attacks of Boko Haram which killed nearly 500 people in the last year alone.

However, the authorities must also protect people from human rights violations like torture, arrest without charge and detention without trial.

Please join me and urge the Cameroonian authorities to take immediate action to ensure that people’s rights are protected, while the fight against Boko Haram continues.

If you’re unsure what to write, you can download this short sample letter and ensure that you adapt this –the more personal each letter is, the greater the pressure.

Send your letter to: President Paul Biya P.O. Box 95 Yaoundé Republic of Cameroon Fax: +237 222 219 376 Salutation: Your Excellency

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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