20, July 2018
After a video of executions in Cameroon featured what seemed to be soldiers using Serbian-made arms, Amnesty International has asked Serbia to stop exporting weapons to the country.
Amnesty International told BIRN that Cameroon has used Serbian-made weapons in a pattern of “systematic violations” of human rights, and has called on Serbia to suspend arms export to the African state.
“Given the credible evidence of a Zastava M21 being used by Cameroonian soldiers to carry out the horrific extrajudicial executions of two women and two young children, Serbia – a major supplier of small arms to Cameroon – should suspend further supplies,” Patrick Wilcken, an arms-control researcher at Amnesty International, told BIRN.
“This is not the first time Amnesty International has documented human rights abuses by Cameroonian forces using Serbian small arms. Rather, it reflects a pattern of systematic violations,” Wilcken added.
The comment came after both Amnesty and Bellingcat stated that they had verified that the gun seen in the video of the execution of the women and children, accused of belonging to outlawed Islamist terror group Boko Harram, was a Serbian-made Zastava M21. The gun is produced in the state-owned Zastava arms factory in the central town of Kragujevac.Serbia’s Ministry of Trade, which issues arms export licenses, and the Ministry of Defence, did not reply to BIRN’s questions on arms sale to Cameroon by the time of publication.
According to data from the UN/Arms Trade Treaty, Cameroon has been one of the largest recipients of Serbian weapons since 2013.
BIRN reported in September last year that tweets had captured images of Serbian-made Coyote machine guns in Cameroon and Nigeria – apparently seized from Boko Haram fighters.
On July 12, Amnesty reported that an investigation had “gathered credible evidence that it was Cameroonian soldiers depicted in a video carrying out the horrific extrajudicial executions of two women and two young children.”
Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Cameroon’s Communication Minister, dismissed the video as fake news, but said the authorities would conduct an investigation.
“Although we have demonstrated that this is fake, the head of state has instructed the Minister of Defence to open a thorough investigation in which no stone should be left unturned,” UK’s ITV quoted Bakary as saying.
Amnesty, however, stated that “both the weapons and uniforms of the soldiers in the video are indicative of the Cameroon Army, and display patterns consistent with a number of possible units, including regular infantry and the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), the special forces of the Cameroonian army.”
“The Cameroonian authorities’ initial claim that this shocking video is fake simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny,” Samira Daoud, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s West Africa office, said in Amnesty’s report.
“The evidence we have provided forms a firm basis for strongly suggesting that the individuals committing these atrocities are members of Cameroon’s armed forces.”
Paul Biya, who has been Cameroon President for 36 years, is facing accusations of brutal human rights abuses.
On July 13, the Associated Press reported that Biya is “one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders” and that “he oversees an increasingly restive Central African nation that faces an Anglophone separatist movement and the threat from Boko Haram extremists crossing the border from Nigeria.”
CNN reported on June 14, citing an Amnesty International report, that English-speakers in the country were being targeted by both the Cameroonian military and separatists in violence that Amnesty described as “unlawful, excessive and unnecessary.”
Source: Balkan Insight