Letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Anglophone Crisis: 2 Years Later

 

Two years ago in December 2016, CHRDA formed a coalition with civil society organizations, professional unions and student associations to bring to the public, concerns about the human rights situation in Cameroon up till December 2016, regarding the Anglophone Crisis.

Represented by Salim Sango Aliyu, currently serving as Program Director for Human Rights and Democracy, CHRDA drafted a letter with subject Attention to a pattern of grave human rights violations being committed by the security forces against the English speaking minority in the Republic of Cameroon, which was signed by 5 people, among others, Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor, current President of CHRDA and Head of the Agbor Nkongho Law Firm, notifying the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of human rights violations targeting the English-speaking minority people in Cameroon’s two Anglophone Regions of Northwest and Southwest Regions.

  1. On behalf of the Common Law Lawyers, Teachers’ Union and Civil Society Organizations of the South West and North West Regions of the Republic of Cameroon, we would like to bring to your attention a pattern of grave human rights violations being committed against the civilian population including, lawyers, teachers, students, women, children and civil society organizations by the security forces in the Republic of Cameroon.
  2. These grievous violations are happening within the context of peaceful and non-violent protests being organized in the past two months in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon by lawyers, teachers and students, to express their frustrations, dissatisfaction and discontent towards the continued marginalization of the English-speaking minority in Cameroon. The protests are also meant to denounce institutionalized discrimination and human rights violations being committed against the English speaking minority as well as practical steps being taken over a prolonged period of time by the Government of Cameroon with the intention of completely undermining the bi-cultural, bi-jural and bilingual specificities of the Republic of Cameroon as enshrined in the constitution.
  3. In direct response to actions by the government to undermine the common law system being practiced by the English speaking minority, through the appointment of civil law trained magistrates to the common law jurisdictions who more often than not don’t speak and/or understand English language; the language used in the Courts of the common law jurisdictions of South West and North West regions. Other grievances include but not limited to, failure to provide legal texts in English; inability and unwillingness by the government to put in place institutional guarantees to preserving the tradition and practice of the Common Law, the lawyers, after numerous attempts to bring this to the attention of the relevant government authorities without success, started a series of peaceful demonstrations on 8 November 2016 in Bamenda and 10 November 2016 in Buea, respectively the headquarter towns of the North West and South West Regions. In exercising their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, enshrined in national and international law, lawyers have been subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Wigs and gowns belonging to some lawyers have been seized while their offices have been illegally searched and vandalized accompanied by the seizure of important documentation.
  4. Similarly, teachers, students and some members of the population including women who have been opposing attempts by the national authorities to “francophonise” the Anglo-Saxon educational system have systematically been targeted by security forces. Despite the fact that teachers called for a civil disobedience “sit-in” campaign and students, have organized peaceful assemblies to air their grievances, they remain primary targets of security forces. We have documented at least 6 persons killed by the security forces in Bamenda, North West Region, scores of people brutalized and injured by the security forces and subsequently arrested and arbitrarily detained in Limbe, Buea, Tiko, Kumba and Bamenda, while hundreds continue to be subjected to acts of constant intimidation and humiliation.
  5. Also alarming is that female students of the University of Buea have been molested, physically assaulted with allegations of at least a female student raped on 28 November 2016 in Buea by a police officer.
  6. The aforementioned acts are happening under the watch of regional and national administrative and security authorities without any concrete steps taken to put a stop to them and identify and/or hold perpetrators accountable. This prevailing climate of impunity is amplifying the pattern of human rights violations.
  7. We come within reach of your instance because with cogent proof in our possession and in the safekeeping of credible local and international institutions, we have established the commission of methodical violations of the right to life, right to physical uprightness, freedom from torment and other cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment or chastisement; the freedom of peaceful gathering and of association; the freedom of judgment and expression and right to independence and security of an individual. These acts by security forces are orchestrated to instill fear in and to intimidate the population, while restricting the role of human rights defenders such as lawyers. They are also intended to compromise the independence of lawyers in upholding the due process rights and speaking out on behalf of the minority, marginalized and vulnerable. In this regard, we can establish that the Republic of Cameroon is reneging on its international obligations to promote and protect the human rights of its citizens especially the English speaking minority.
  8. It is our stance that the systematic nature of these acts gives reasons to believe that they are being planned, ordered and executed, and therefore cannot be seen as isolated acts of some unruly Police/Gendarmes/Military officers. In order to maintain the professionalism of the Police/Gendarmes/Military which in large parts is made up of trained personnel, we are calling for immediate action to be taken to ensure accountability in these cases.
  9. Due to the absence of a credible and concrete move by the relevant authorities to initiate investigations into these abhorrent human rights violations, we are left with no other choice than to bring same to your attention, while at the same time, soliciting your prompt action in putting a stop to this wave of human rights violations by the security forces.
  10. We remain steadfast in our call for a credible, independent and fair investigation into these crimes to be carried out by an independent Commission of Inquiry. We are in custody of evidence of high probative value, including oral testimonies and real time videos to substantiate our assertions and will be willing to share same with you upon request. We emphasize our unwavering determination to continue advocating in a peaceful manner, consistent with national and international law, for the respect of all the rights of the English-speaking minority in Cameroon.

This letter was not intended to serve as a complaint or to by-pass the more formal complaint procedure mechanism. It was to draw the attention of the UNOHCHR to the grave violations committed in Cameroon at the time.

Today however, the crisis has degenerated, leading to over 26,000 refugees in Nigeria+400,000 IDPs with 128 villages raided and burned down in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, and over 400 deaths on both sides of the armed conflicts. Even though the government has taken moves to resolve the conflict, we criticize such moves for its sluggishness, lack of political will and an attempt to derail the crisis and prolong the sufferings of the civilian population.

We once more launch an urgent call for international, continental and/or regional cooperation to put an end to these human rights abuses and violations.

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