In July 2017, Amnesty International exposed Cameroon in a report on torture chambers used against suspected Boko Haram supporters and members. It was a classic case of good motives irreparably stained by macabre methods. Similar methods have been employed by the United States of America in Guantanamo Bay and Amnesty International alleges some American officials were aware of the torture. A 17 year old captured in Maroua, Cameroon and taken to one such chamber in Salak told Daily Beast, “Welcome to Guantanamo’ was the first thing the (Cameroonian) soldiers in Salak said to us as we arrived there.”
Building on the July 2016 report “Right Cause, Wrong Means”, Amnesty International released the latest report on torture being occasioned in the name of fighting terrorism. The report includes previously research carried out by Amnesty International during five field missions in Cameroon between February 2016 and February 2017 and hundreds of telephone interviews conducted from July 2016 to March 2017.
Amnesty International documented 101 cases of incommunicado detention and torture in detention facilities run by the Rapid Intervention Battalion and Intervention Rapide (BIR) and the General Directorate of External Research (DGRE). The cases documented are those of torture carried out between March 2013 and March 2017. Most of the cases are said to involve individuals who said they were arrested by soldiers or men in plain clothes who produced no identification.
Qaddafi was not killed for humanitarian purposes but for the oil and for money. His ideas of an African gold-backed currency were his major undoing.
Amnesty International also reported that in none of the 101 cases were warrants of arrest used and most of the arrested people ended up being charged with terrorism. The arrests were largely arbitrary with one case of a Nigerian refugee who did not have identification documents on his person being arrested serving as an illustration of the arbitrary nature of the arrests. It is a lazy dragnet system which ignores the need for prior investigations before alleging. The suspicions are usually unjustified and sometimes border on prejudice and stereotypes. The Nigerian refugee for example was only arrested after being told that, “…all Nigerian refugees are likely to be Boko Haram members”.
More than 24 methods to make you scream
The problem with arrests that are unjustified by evidence is their legitimacy is hinged on confessions and these are obtained using “enhanced interrogation” as the Minister of defence called it. Amnesty International says it, “documented at least 24 distinct torture methods used by the soldiers, including the BIR, interrogators, guards and agents of the DGRE present at both BIR and DGRE-run facilities, as well as by members of the gendarmes and the police.” One woman given the name Fatima to protect her identity said she was beaten “for three days all over her body with all sorts of objects, in order to make me admit things I knew nothing about”.
The hypocrisy exhibited in Iraq is a good lesson for Africa, which was played in the same manner in the case of Libya.
Apart from beatings, the soldiers in the facilities are said to use stress positions like “le chevre” – the goat which entails tying up the detainee’s arms and legs together behind his back, and leaving him on the ground. This, like other stress positions is used in combination with beatings. Other methods include suspensions, drowning, sleep deprivation, detention in complete darkness, extraction of nails, deprivation of food, burning, and electric shocks.
Cameroon has a constitutional framework and a penal regime that does not allow the use of torture. The country is also party to several international treaties that prohibit torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. One is the Convention Against Torture which at Article 11 and 12 says signatories should take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in territories under their control and provides for investigations where there are reasonable grounds to believe acts of torture are being committed.
With the government considering these torture chambers as places of “enhanced interrogation”, it is difficult to see how this situation will change without external pressure. The powers that deem themselves the prefects of the world have dirty hands in this issue and cannot assume their signature patronising rhetoric. USA and France are alleged to have had prior knowledge of the chambers and after all, USA has Guantanamo Bay so who will police who?
The full Amnesty International Report is can be found here.