The military has swiftly rejected an Amnesty International report alleging “wide spread” human rights abuses in the war on Boko Haram.
A Ministry of Defense spokesman yesterday said Cameroon soldiers have never been involved activities deliberately designed to violate human rights and fell short of calling the allegations malicious.
Colonel Didier Badjeck, head of the communication division, said troops were well-trained and the military enforces strict field operations measures to guard against abuses, even on the battlefront.
The Amnesty International report released yesterday accuses Cameroonian troops of arbitrary arrests, torture, inhuman detentions, unfair trials and extrajudicial killing of suspected terrorists and their accomplices.
It was the second such report in a period of ten months.
“The ministry of defense has never been involved, in a calculated way, in any activity that violates human rights,” Badjeck told reporters in Yaoundé yesterday, after the report went public.
“You must be aware of decisions by the minister of defense that severely punishes – and these are dissuasion punishments – some soldiers caught in acts of harassment.”
He said international humanitarian law was in military academies and training centers and troops receive adequate briefings before deployment to make sure laws are not broken.
The report came amid new Boko Haram suicide attacks, which have killed dozens in several locations in the Far North over the last few weeks. They have become fewer and far apart but show the war will not be over any time soon.
“In seeking to protect its population from the brutality of Boko Haram, Cameroon is pursuing the right objective; but in arbitrarily arresting, torturing and subjecting people to enforced disappearances the authorities are using the wrong means,” said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International West and Central Africa regional director, in a statement.
“With hundreds of people arrested without reasonable suspicion that they have committed any crime, and people dying on a weekly basis in its overcrowded prisons, Cameroon’s government should take urgent action to keep its promise to respect human rights while fighting Boko Haram.”
Amnesty International alleged that Cameroon has detained more than 1000 terrorism suspects under deplorable conditions around the country. Six to eight of them die in detention every month, the group alleged.
The group said it conducted interviews, reviewed cases, sat through trials and visited detention centers to reach its conclusions. But authorities and the militant alike were visibly furious.
The minister of Communication and government spokesman Issa Tchiroma also rejected the damning reports as baseless.
An unlikely government ally in the rebuttal, opposition party leader Anicet Ekane, called them unfounded, malicious and provocative.
“The last report of Amnesty International on alleged abuses by soldiers on the battle front dates back to September 2016.”
“This one comes out in July  after being written in about three months. That represents a report every six months on problems in the war on Boko Haram.”
He accused Amnesty International of blackmail and trying to undermine the butchery caused by Boko Haram with a comparison with military reprisals. “There is a problem there,” he said. “It looks suspicious. We don’t have to cede to the provocations of Amnesty International.”