UN Committee tells Cameroon to put an end to torture by security forces in the fight against Boko Haram
Cameroon must act swiftly on the recommendations published today by the UN Committee against Torture and put an end to the widespread use of torture by security forces fighting Boko Haram, Amnesty International said.
The Committee expressed deep concerns about the use of secret torture chambers documented by Amnesty International in July, and its failure to clarify whether investigations were being carried into these allegations, as well as other reports of killings of civilians and enforced disappearances.
“With the Committee against Torture now also demanding an end to the use of torture in Cameroon, it is becoming impossible for the world to ignore the widespread practice of torture in the country,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International’s Lake Chad researcher.
“The clamour for justice is growing and Cameroonian authorities should respond by taking these reports of torture far more seriously and launching an independent and efficient investigation into these horrific practices.”
Based on submissions from organisations including Amnesty International, the UN Committee noted that large numbers of people from Cameroon’s Far North region are likely to have been held incommunicado and tortured by members of the military and the intelligence services in at least 20 illegal detention facilities between 2013 and 2017.
The Committee also raised concerns that this torture took place with the likely knowledge of senior BIR and intelligence officers at one military base, and that dozens of people may have died following torture and inhuman conditions of detention.
In its recommendations the Committee called on Cameroon to publish a declaration from the highest state level affirming an absolute prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment and put an end to the practice of incommunicado detention.
It also called for effective, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of torture, incommunicado detention and death in custody, and for alleged perpetrators and accomplices of such acts, including those in command responsibility, be prosecuted and sentenced in proportion to the seriousness of the offences.
Elsewhere in its concluding observations, the UN Committee also echoed concerns raised by Amnesty International and others in relation to human rights violations committed in the Anglophone regions of the country, including by demanding an investigation into the deaths of at least 20 people killed in October in clashes between the security forces and protestors.
The Committee criticized the failure of Cameroon to provide information on the number of people still detained following protests in the regions, or whether investigations had been launched into the excessive use of force.
UN experts also noted their concerns that journalists such as RFI correspondent Ahmed Abba had been charged under counter-terrorism laws, and that some had been subjected to torture while in detention. The Committee also criticized the regular use of military courts in trials of civilians.
“The UN’s anti-torture experts have recognised that there is a major problem in Cameroon, and their warnings should be heeded. There should be no tolerance of human rights violations like torture, and we hope that the Cameroonian authorities and international community will respond to this report with the seriousness it deserves,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi.
On 7-8 November, the Committee against Torture convened in Geneva, where among other things it completed a two-day review of Cameroon’s fifth periodic report on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention against Torture covering the period 2010-2015.
The Committee – which is comprised of 10 independent experts – engaged in a dialogue with the Cameroonian delegation which included representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Police, and the Permanent Mission of Cameroon to the United Nations Office at Geneva. Cameroon is among the 162 state parties to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Published on AI on December 6, 2017
Amnesty International is alarmed by reports it has received of a wave of enforced disappearances that have taken place over recent days, particularly of activists in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, and calls upon the Pakistani authorities to immediately carry out independent and effective investigations with a view to determining the fate and whereabouts of all missing people. Where they are in the custody of the state to either release them or charge them with a recognisable criminal offence. Anyone reasonably suspected of criminal responsibility for enforced disappearances must be held to account through fair trials.
While some of the people who were reported to have been disappeared have been returned home over recent days, there are credible reports that others still remain missing. Enforced disappearances are a blight on Pakistan’s human rights record, with hundreds and possibly thousands of cases reported across the country over the past several years. Victims of enforced disappearances are at considerable risk of torture and other ill-treatment and even death. To date, not a single perpetrator of the crime has been brought to justice.
The Commission on Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances received nearly 300 cases of alleged enforced disappearances from August to October 2017, by far the largest number in a three month period in recent years.
After its last visit to Pakistan, in 2012, the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, noted that there is “a climate of impunity in Pakistan with regard to enforced disappearances, and the authorities are not sufficiently dedicated to investigate cases of enforced disappearance and hold the perpetrators accountable.” Amnesty International notes that this situation has not improved over the past five years.
Pakistan’s authorities must publicly condemn enforced disappearances, recognize enforced disappearances as a distinct and autonomous offence, and call for an end to this cruel and inhumane practice. Pakistan has thus far failed to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance – a glaring omission that casts an unflattering light on the country’s claims to be committed to the highest human rights standards.
The UN Human Rights Committee - the treaty-monitory body that oversees how States implement and comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – took note of Pakistan’s record on enforced disappearances and recommended that the country: “Criminalize enforced disappearance and put an end to the practice of enforced disappearance and secret detention,” and “Ensure that all allegations of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings are promptly and thoroughly investigated; all perpetrators are prosecuted and punished with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crimes”.
On October 16, Pakistan became one of 15 states elected by the UN General Assembly to serve as members of the UN Human Rights Council, from January 2018 to December 2020. In its election pledges, Pakistan said that it is “firmly resolved to uphold, promote and safeguard universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.”
For that claim to be taken seriously, and for Pakistan to fulfil “the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” expected of all Council members, it must make ending enforced disappearances a priority and hold all suspected perpetrators - including military and intelligence personnel – to account, through fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.
Once confined to the restive territories of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Baluchistan, enforced disappearances have spread to other parts of the country, including urban centres and major cities. In early January 2017, five human rights defenders were abducted from the capital Islamabad and parts of Punjab province. Four of the defenders returned to their homes between 27 and 29 January. Two of the defenders have since said that they were threatened, intimidated and tortured by people they believed to belong to military intelligence.
After the last Universal Periodic Review in 2012, Pakistan’s government made a commitment to take “effective measures against enforced disappearances” and to “combat impunity for all those who attack human rights defenders”. Later this month, when Pakistan’s human rights record is subject to scrutiny again, the government must finally take urgent steps to turn those commitments into reality.
Published on Amnesty International on November 6, 2017.
By Bassam Khawaja
Today is International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. For Lebanon, that means another year in which the government has failed to advance justice and accountability for the thousands who were forcibly disappeared during the country’s long and bloody civil war.
An estimated 17,000 Lebanese were kidnapped or “disappeared” during the civil war of 1975-90. In addition, scores of citizens and Palestinians disappeared in Lebanon after 1990 during Syria’s military presence in the country, and are known or believed to have been transferred to detention in Syria.
But until now, there has been no significant effort to investigate and uncover their fate or whereabouts. A proposal to set up an independent national commission to investigate these cases has gone nowhere.
The Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped and Disappeared in Lebanon, as well as other nongovernmental groups, have proposed a draft law to create a commission that would include representatives of victims’ families and nongovernmental groups and have a broad mandate to investigate what happened to the disappeared and to question former officials. But parliament has not moved to pass legislation, and families are still awaiting answers.
In Lebanon, the issue of enforced disappearances cannot be relegated to the history of the civil war. Human Rights Watch has documented cases of military detention, in which families are not able to locate detainees in detention, some of which may amount to enforced disappearances. Human Rights Watch has also documented accounts of Syrians who disappeared in Lebanese custody in 2014 and are feared to have been deported to Syria, where they may face torture and death.
Parliament should at long last pass legislation to establish a national commission. And Lebanon should ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and prosecute cases of enforced disappearances on its territory.
The families of those who disappeared should not be left in the dark any longer.
Published on HRW on August 29, 2017.
South Sudanese authorities must release all people detained without charge by the security agencies, including 28 men currently held at the headquarters of the national intelligence agency in the capital Juba, said Amnesty International’s Secretary General today in an open letter to President Salva Kiir.
The call comes after the president publicly pledged to release all political detainees.
“Hundreds of people, mostly men, have been arrested without charge by security agents and held in torturous conditions for long periods of time, since the conflict began more than three years ago. Others have disappeared without a trace at the hands of National Security Service and Military Intelligence agents,” said Salil Shetty.
“While President Kiir’s pledge was welcome, we call on him to go a step further and order a full investigation into arbitrary detention practices of government security agencies, enforced disappearances, deaths in custody, torture and other ill-treatment.”
At least 20 men have died in detention at three separate detention centres in Juba between February 2014 and December 2016.
Published on Amnesty International website on March 27, 2017.
After a two-year investigation about thousands cases of torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and other violation of human rights that occurred under the authoritarian regime, between 1964 and 1985, the National Truth Commission ("Comissão Nacional da Verdade") released its much awaited report on 10 December 2014 (only available in Portuguese).
According to Amnesty International, the report "makes important recommendations about the demilitarization of Brazil’s military police, the independence of legal expertise and medical institutes relied on for public security, the strengthening of public defenders and improvements in the prison system to guarantee prisoners’ rights. The report also recommends the further development of Brazilian legislation to codify crimes against humanity and enforced disappearance, important milestones in international law to protect human rights."
The 2,000-page report documents 191 killings and 210 disappearances committed by military authorities, as well as 33 cases of people who were “disappeared” and whose remains were discovered later.
This report will hopefully put an end to the protection granted by the 1979 Amnesty Law to members of the former military government. Elisabeth Silveria e Silva, who leads the Torture Never Again human rights group, stated after the release of the report that"the amnesty law must be rewritten or abrogated altogether" for the criminals to be held accountable.
Posted by Flavie Fuentes