REPUBLIC OF CAMEROON: Inmates ‘packed like sardines’ in overcrowded prisons following Anglophone protests

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25 Oct 2017
[International Secretariat]

Protests in dozens of towns took place in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon on 1 October. More than 20 people were unlawfully shot dead by security forces and mass were arrested. At least 500 people remain detained in overcrowded detention facilities and many wounded protestors fled hospitals to avoid arrest, Amnesty International said today.

The arrests took place in towns across the regions. In Bamenda, the capital of the North-West region, at least 200 people were arrested and detained. In Buea, the capital of the South-West region, at least 300 people have been arrested since the 1st October protests. 

Security forces including the army have also used unnecessary or excessive force and have destroyed property and looted belongings. In one incident on 3 October in Buea, a police officer threw a teargas canister into a vehicle containing a dozen protestors, who had to smash the window to let in air.

Charged with secession

Eyewitnesses described how prisons have become overcrowded following the wave of arrests. In Buea the prison population has increased from about 1,000 before 22 September to around 1,500 today. Some of those arrested have been charged with secession movement, and others with charges including not possessing identity papers. Some have already been brought before the courts. Others were released following the payment of bribes.

The fear of arrest and large-scale deployment of security forces also led to dozens of wounded protestors fleeing hospitals where they had sought.

Gathering information from families, eyewitnesses, others across the regions, Amnesty International has learnt that in at least nine hospitals people with serious injuries fled before their treatment was finished, have been picked up by families, or have asked to be discharged against the advice of medical staff, because of the fear of arrest.

Climate of fear

Another medic told Amnesty International:  “Some of our patients run away from hospital even before getting stabilized, out of fear that the police would come to arrest them”.  A third medic told the organisation that security forces did not allow him and other doctors to examine the corpses to clinically confirm that they had been shot.

In another case a young man was killed just outside of the hospital, shot in the back of the head by security forces while running away a protest. 

“The security forces should put an end to the arbitrary arrest of protestors and permit that those injured are able to seek treatment without fear. International organisations should also deploy human rights monitors and medical staff to assess the situation and provide emergency care.”

13 October 2017

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