The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Al Hussein, on Wednesday, said persistent reports of grave human rights abuses in Cameroon must be investigated by the Cameroonian authorities urgently.
The UN rights chief, who expressed concern over the situation in that country, condemned a widely shared video showing alleged execution of a woman, child and baby.
Amid the backdrop of protests in the English-speaking north-west and south-west regions of the country that escalated in late 2017 into clashes between state military forces and armed groups, Zeid condemned an ambush on government motorcade that took place earlier this month.
But he cautioned that the government’s “heavy-handed response…will only make matters worse for the women, children and men caught in the middle.
To date, the violence has forced more than 21,000 people to flee to neighbouring countries, according to UN humanitarian officials, while 160,000 were internally displaced, many reportedly hiding in forests to protect themselves.
Zeid said: “there are reports that armed elements carried out kidnappings, targeted killings of police and local authorities, extortion and torched schools.
“There are also reports that government forces are responsible for killings, the excessive use of force, burning down of houses, arbitrary detentions and torture.”
To prevent the situation from deteriorating further, Zeid urged the government to launch independent investigations into alleged violations by state security forces and abuses by armed elements.
The high commissioner noted serious violations in the far north of the country, where the authorities continued to confront the terrorist group — Boko Haram.
Zeid said he was “utterly appalled” by a video reportedly showing members of state armed forces executing a woman, a child and a baby who were accused of belonging to the separatist militants, and insisted the government had an obligation to investigate the crime.
“I am deeply worried that these killings captured on camera may not be isolated cases,” the UN rights chief said.
Given the seriousness of the reported violence by State and armed actors, the UN official added that it was “regrettable” that the government had failed to grant the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) access, in spite of repeated requests.
“We will now need to explore other options, including remote monitoring,” Zeid said.