Shootings on Video in Cameroon ‘May Not Be Isolated Cases,’ U.N. Fears 0

In the video, a man in a military uniform leads a woman down a dirt road, smacking her in the head several times as she holds a little girl’s hand and stumbles along. Another woman trails them with an infant strapped to her back. The group is blindfolded and made to sit on the ground.

Armed uniformed men raise their weapons and fire.

“The girl is still breathing,” someone says after the shooters pause, and one walks over to the limp bodies.

A uniformed man approaches the girl and fires again.

This graphic video, which has circulated on social media in recent days, appears to show soldiers in Cameroon executing two women, a child and baby on suspicion of being affiliated with Boko Haram. It has drawn outrage from human rights advocates and riled secessionist groups that have taken up arms in English-speaking areas of the country and say that they, too, have suffered abuses at the hands of the military.

On Wednesday, the United Nation’s high commissioner for human rights expressed alarm at continuing violence in Cameroon, saying he was “utterly appalled” by the horrific video.

“The government of Cameroon has an obligation to investigate this atrocious crime urgently,” said Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the high commissioner. “I am deeply worried that these killings captured on camera may not be isolated cases.”

The United States Department of State has called for an inquiry, and Cameroonian officials have said they would investigate the episode. Some officials have told various groups that four soldiers have been arrested in the shootings, but others have denied that, calling it “fake news.”

Security forces in Cameroon have battled Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group, for years in the north of the country. Now, the country faces new threats from a protest movement that has inspired an armed separatist group demanding the creation of a breakaway nation in the south. Government forces have been accused of abuses in both conflicts.

A presidential election due to be held in October — in which President Paul Biya, now in his 36th year of power, is running for re-election — is adding to tension.

Videos of abuses by security forces posted to social media have served to escalate the violence. In English-speaking areas, it has worsened significantly in recent weeks and claimed at least 425 lives, according to the United Nations agency Unicef.

Many of the clips cannot be verified. The statement from the United Nations said it had repeatedly asked to enter English-speaking areas, but the government had denied access.

The recent video appears to have been filmed in the Far North, a region where Boko Haram operates. Its timing could not be determined, but diplomats believe it to be authentic.

Such action, as horrible as it is, did not come as a surprise to some human rights activists in Cameroon who say that security forces have been acting with impunity for years, especially in the fight against Boko Haram. Amnesty International and other groups have publicized numerous abuses.

“These extrajudicial killings are part of a broader pattern,” said Agbor Balla, a human rights lawyer in Cameroon.

Cameroonian defense officials said they had arrested a soldier in the rape of a woman in Bamenda, a major city in the English-speaking area. News of the arrest followed the publication of a video of the woman recounting being attacked after failing to produce identification at a military checkpoint.

Actions of both security forces and armed separatists in southern Cameroon have been condemned by human rights groups. Military forces have used deadly force on unarmed protesters, firing on some from helicopters and torching homes. Separatists have carried out kidnappings and targeted killings of police officers and local officials, and have burned schools.

Tens of thousands of civilians caught in the middle of the violence have fled — both from Boko Haram areas and from areas where armed separatists are operating. Government officials have pledged to investigate abuses, and have made arrests in some cases. But rarely have they broadly publicized any such actions. The United Nations may start monitoring the area remotely, its statement said.

Source: New York Times