The Cameroonian authorities must come clean over the fate of 130 people rounded up and detained by Cameroonian forces a year ago following security operations against Boko Haram, said Amnesty International on the anniversary of their enforced disappearance.
On 27 December 2014, more than 200 boys and men were arrested by security forces in the villages of Magdeme and Doublé. The government claims that 70 suspected Boko Haram members were arrested and that 25 of them had died that night in custody. However, the whereabouts of at least 130 remaining people are still unknown. In the same operation, at least eight people, including a child, were killed, more than 70 buildings were burnt down and many possessions were stolen or destroyed by security forces.
“One year after they went missing, the families of these boys and men are still waiting to discover their fate. They have received no information on their whereabouts. Similarly, the identities of the 25 detainees whom the authorities claim died in a cell at the Gendarmerie HQ in Maroua have not been revealed,” said Illaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International’s Central Africa researcher.
“The fight against Boko Haram should not serve as a pretext for enforced disappearances. The families of those who died and those whose fate is still unknown must be informed. Those in secret detention must be given access to their relatives and lawyers and be treated in a humane manner. The incident must be urgently and impartially investigated.”
A 51-year-old woman, whose house was also looted and burned down by security forces on 27 December 2014, told Amnesty International that seven of her family members were arrested and driven away in trucks.
“Since that day, I have not seen or heard from my husband, my two sons, my two brothers and my two sons-in-law despite all my efforts to find them. I really need to know whether they are alive. I want them to come back.’’
In a report published last September, Amnesty International documented how Boko Haram has slaughtered more than 400 civilians in northern Cameroon. As a response the security forces raided villages, destroying homes, killing civilians and detaining more than 1,000 suspects.
The organization has written to the Minister of Defence, Minister of Justice and the Chief of Gendarmerie, among others, providing a list of 130 names of people who were arrested in Magdeme and Doublé requesting them to confirm their whereabouts and inform their families. So far there has been no response.
Amnesty International is calling on the authorities to conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of crimes under international law and other human rights violations by members of the security forces, and to disclose the identities as well as the place of burial of at least 25 people who died in custody in Maroua.
“The families of the disappeared need to know what has become of their loved ones. The authorities must once and for all put an end to this blatant injustice that has already lasted too long,” said Illaria Allegrozzi.
“The failure to investigate these disappearances by the security forces strengthens the impunity that they enjoy.”
Cameroon’s President has deployed at least 2,000 troops of the Rapid Intervention Battalion alongside forces from the Mobile Intervention Battalion to combat Boko Haram’s violence. The heavy-handed response, by state security forces has led to crimes under international law and human rights violations.