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Human Rights of Cameroon

Cameroon is considered a haven of peace in a region that has often been beset by violence and unrest. Conflict in neighbouring Central African Republic and a rise in banditry there has led to the movement of populations across the border but, for the most part, violence has not spilled over into Cameroon.


Cameroon's human rights record has been poor but has improved recently. NGOs and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture have highlighted extra-judicial executions, protracted detention without trial, torture of detainees and appalling prison conditions in recent years. In some rare cases the victims are political activists, but in many cases they are victims of racketeering by the security forces. It is probably fair to say that the number of cases highlighted has declined in the last 5 years.

In some rare cases the victims are political activists, but in many cases they are victims of racketeering by the security forces. Although there is a free press, journalists are often harassed.

The international community (through the European Union, the Commonwealth, the United Nations, and bilaterally) has been pressing the Government of Cameroon to implement reforms of the judicial system and put an end to the culture of impunity in the security forces. The Government set up a Human Rights Commission in 1992.

Although there is a free press, journalists are often harassed. The international community (through the European Union, the Commonwealth, the United Nations, and bilaterally) has been pressing the Government of Cameroon to implement reforms of the judicial system and put an end to the culture of impunity in the security forces. The government set up a Human Rights Commission in 1992.

A presidential decree, passed by the National Assembly in June 2005, confirms its official status and should ensure regular funding. The government has recently made other moves to improve the Human Rights situation, for example starting building new prisons to relieve overcrowding.

Humanitarian needs

According to the UNDP in Cameroon, 85 percent of those living in poverty are in rural areas. Women are particularly affected by poverty and have more nutritional problems, a heavier workload, a lack of education and limited access to health services.

The Far North province, which is the most populated in the country, is also one of the most neglected and is deficient in several areas. Child mortality in this region is 201 deaths for every 1,000 live births compared to 159 for the rest of the country, and it is the region with the lowest vaccination coverage. Women also receive the least amount of pre-natal care in this province and malnutrition is pervasive.

Amnesty International (AI) reported in 2006 that suspects detained in police custody were frequently subjected to torture and ill-treatment. In some cases, this resulted in death. Incidents, however, were rarely investigated and impunity amongst the police and military led to excessive use of force. AI also reported that there is a high mortality rate in prisons due to poor conditions that include overcrowding, medical neglect and inadequate food.

The government imprisoned several members of a separatist group from the English-speaking provinces of the country after what AI described as an unfair trial. The political prisoners were denied appeals for over five years, after which they had their sentences reduced. AI also noted that human rights activists are frequently targets of harassment and the organisation has been denied access to Cameroon for the past 10 years.

Homosexuality is illegal in Cameroon and AI expressed concern over the arrest of a group of men accused of homosexuality. It also denounced a newspaper that printed a list of supposedly homosexual men.

Peace and security

Cameroon had an ongoing border dispute with Nigeria over the Bakassi peninsula, considered potentially rich in oil. Following confrontations at the border that nearly brought the two countries to war, and after Nigeria attempted to fully occupy the territory, Cameroon asked the International Court of Justice to determine territorial rights in 1994.

The ICJ made its ruling in 2002 in favour of Cameroon, and in August 2006 Nigerian troops left the area. The inhabitants of the peninsula, however, consider themselves to be Nigerian and a few days before the handover, a group tried to declare the region independent and said they were worried about Cameroonian occupation of the area. The Nigeria-Cameroon Mixed Commission has demarcated 500km of border territory, but this leaves a further 1,000km to be settled.

Cameroon also has a dispute with Equatorial Guinea over an island at the opening of the River Ntem. The dispute started after oil exploration work was carried out in the region.

Cameroon also has some internal problems. A secessionist group has formed in the two English-speaking provinces of the country. The Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC) emerged in the 1990s and has been declared illegal by the government. Although the movement has mainly espoused non-violence, there have been several arrests of members, most recently at a press conference in January 2007 held by the SCNC. The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation reported that all 300 attendees were detained and that excessive force was used by armed officers.

There have also been several media reports of incidents of mob justice, which the Peace and Conflict Monitor said was on the rise. Mob justice is described by the Peace and Conflict Monitor as the infliction of a penalty on an alleged criminal by a group without proving guilt. The alleged perpetrator is usually subjected to stoning, burning or lynching. Most cases occurred following an incident of theft. The rise in this form of violence is attributed to inefficiencies of the judiciary.

Refugees

Conflicts in surrounding countries have caused a surge of refugees to enter Cameroon and could potentially force more into the country.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Cameroon is expected to host approximately 48,500 refugees and 6,000 asylum-seekers in 2007.

In November 2006, the UN reported that close to 30,000 people from the Central African Republic (CAR) had sought refuge in Cameroon. Most are part of the Mbororo ethnic group, who live close to the Cameroonian border. They started crossing into Cameroon in April 2005 to flee harassment and child abductions. In recent months, the flow has accelerated due to attacks by former rebels. Most of the refugees have settled in the east and Adamaoua region in the north of Cameroon.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) reported that if the situations in Sudan and Chad worsen, up to 300,000 Chadians could potentially flee the capital N’Djamena and cross into Cameroon. It added that 2,500 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who are currently in the Republic of Congo could make their way to Cameroon, since it is perceived to have better living conditions.

The UNHCR reported that the repatriation of 10,000 Nigerian refugees was completed in 2006 following the signing of a tripartite agreement in 2005 between the UNHCR and the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria. It will assist 2,800 Nigerians that have chosen to stay in Cameroon to integrate.

It will also help the government establish a National Eligibility Committee and try to reduce the backlog of asylum claims that number close to 6,000.

Last Updated on Friday 13th November 2009