GENEVA (22 April 2020) - Cameroon’s decision to publicly acknowledge that members of the military were involved in the killing of at least 13 people in a village in the North-West region of the country in February is a positive step, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday.
“I welcome the Government’s decision to set up a national commission of inquiry, comprised of military officers, to look into these killings. I applaud the fact that the commission created under the authority of the Ministry of Defence worked with the participation of civil society representatives, religious leaders and the president of the national human rights institution. It is now essential that all those responsible for the deaths of the people in the village of Ngarbuh are held fully to account in a fair and transparent judicial process,” Bachelet said.
According to a presidential statement, the national commission found that two soldiers and a gendarme, aided by 10 members of a vigilante committee, stormed the village, shooting dead five members of an armed separatist group. The statement said that when the servicemen discovered that as a result of the operation three women and 10 children had been killed, they panicked and burned down houses to try to cover up their actions.
Cameroonian authorities have said that legal proceedings are being initiated against the three servicemen and that they are continuing to search for the vigilante members.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced in recent years by clashes between security and defence forces and armed separatist groups in Cameroon’s North-West and South-West regions.
“As we urged in February when this tragic incident came to light, I call on the Government to ensure that the security forces abide by applicable international law norms and standards during the conduct of their operations. Any allegations of human rights violations and abuses must be promptly investigated and actions taken to combat impunity and prevent reoccurrence. I also remind armed separatist groups of their responsibilities under international law and call on all parties to refrain from deliberate attacks on civilians,” the High Commissioner said.
“My Office stands ready to support efforts to ensure the protection of the human rights of people all across Cameroon. I urge the Government to strengthen cooperation with my Office and the United Nations system in that regard” Bachelet stressed.