ANKARA (AA) – Cameroonian authorities are currently detaining and torturing more than 1,000 people for alleged involvement in Boko Haram terror activities in the Central African state, charged human rights group Amnesty International Thursday.
A new Amnesty International report also claimed that “dozens are dying from disease and malnutrition or have been tortured to death.”
Amnesty said 1,000 people are being detained in “overcrowded prisons” – with nearly 1,500 people detained in a building built for 350 – “in insanitary conditions where malnutrition is rampant.”
“In Maroua prison, for example, between six to eight people die each month… Family visits to detainees are strictly limited.”
Amnesty says that Cameroon’s fight against Boko Haram has resulted in many human rights violations against civilians, especially in Cameroon’s Far North region, where the militant group is active.
“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.
“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,” Tine added.
The rights group added that Cameroon security forces arrest people based on little information and sometimes target a whole group.
“In February 2015 for example, in Kossa, 32 men were rounded up and arrested based on accusations that the village was providing food to Boko Haram. Most were later released, but one man died in custody,” it said.
A 70-year-old man detained in one of the prisons told Amnesty that Cameroon’s Rapid Intervention Brigade, BIR (special forces involved in the fight against Boko Haram), had tortured his son for 10 days and he also saw some men beaten to death.
“We were all interrogated in the same room, one by one, by a man dressed with the BIR uniform. Two other men in plain clothes carried out the beatings and other torture. That day, two prisoners were beaten up so badly that they died in front of us. The men in plain clothes kicked them and slapped them violently, and hit them with wooden sticks,” he said.
“I was not beaten because I am old, so I was the one to help carrying the two dead bodies from the interrogation room to the cell. That night we slept in the cell with two dead bodies, and the day after the BIR came, threw plastic bags towards us, asked us to put the bodies inside, and then came to collect them. I don’t know where the bodies were taken and whether they were ever buried,” he added.
More than 1,100 civilians and security force members have been killed in attacks attributed to Boko Haram in the Far North since 2013, according to Communication Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary.
Approximately half of Boko Haram’s 46 suicide attacks have been carried out by children, according to Amnesty.
This March a military court in Cameroon’s Far North Region sentenced 89 Boko Haram militants to death.
“More than 100 people, including women, have been sentenced to death in [the Far North] Maroua’s military court since July 2015, although none have yet been executed,” said Amnesty’s report, calling the military trials “unfair.”
Nearly 1,000 Boko Haram suspects are still awaiting trial, a judge told Anadolu Agency in March, speaking on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking with the media.
Cameroon has reinforced its military presence along its border with Nigeria, trying to repel the Nigerian militant group with the help of the local population.
The Central African nation is also part of a Multinational Joint Task Force that was created by Lake Chad Basin countries – Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Benin – aimed at eradicating the militant group.