Thank you, Ms. Chair, and members of the subcommittee on international human rights.
Amnesty International is relieved that the issue in Cameroon is getting attention. Amnesty International has been working in and on Cameroon for five years now, documenting numerous human rights violations and abuses.
Allow me to give you a broad view of what's happening in Cameroon, not only in the anglophone regions but basically in all the country.
Cameroon is in a very difficult regional context where the rationale of security versus human rights is gaining more and more ground, and basically the state seems to think that any human rights violation can be justified by the fact that they are protecting their people and country against whatever they consider threats.
Cameroon is facing multiple crises, the first one being Boko Haram in the northern regions; it's not first by order of importance but by chronological order. The second one is the crisis in anglophone regions. The third one, which just started a few months ago, is the post-electoral crackdown in Yaoundé and Douala.
As I was saying, Cameroon is surrounded by very sensitive countries that are dealing with their own threats. Cameroon is surrounded by the Central African Republic, Chad and Nigeria, and is very engaged in the fight against Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region. While Amnesty International considers that the fight is legitimate, the means they are using are not.
In the response of the Cameroonian authorities to the fight against Boko Haram, security forces have committed a huge number of human rights violations and abuses. They have committed arbitrary arrests and detention, systematic use of torture and forced disappearance, death in custody and unlawful killing sometimes. They are basically using the same pattern of human rights violations in the anglophone regions.
Whatever Cameroon considers a threat, whatever they consider a risk to their security, we have seen in our study of this for five years that the reaction is basically the same. The pattern of human rights violations and abuses is basically the same.
What the security forces have been doing in the northern regions is not over yet. In the anglophone regions now, they are doing exactly the same as what they have been doing in the northern regions since 2014: unlawful arrest and detention, systematic use of torture, unlawful killing and death in custody.
The specificity of the crisis in the anglophone regions means that now, for once, it is gaining more attention than what's happening in the northern regions. It's getting attention thanks to the fact that the anglophone diaspora is present almost everywhere and they are very powerful, which is a good thing. Basically, it's why we're here. It means that, for once, what's happening in Cameroon is gaining the attention it needs to gain.
Our recommendation as Amnesty International, both for the crisis in the north but also the crisis in the anglophone regions, is that the Cameroonian authorities investigate all allegations of torture and of unlawful detention. I'm specifically thinking, in regard to the crisis in the northern regions, of a village just north of Maroua where more than 130 men—only men—disappeared in 2014. The families have not heard from them for five years now. It has to be investigated. That's just one example of what has happened in the northern region and is happening now in the anglophone regions.
The third crisis that Cameroon is facing is the post-electoral crackdown. At the end of January, Maurice Kamto, who is the main political opponent in the country, organized a peaceful demonstration to protest what he considers mass irregularities during the latest presidential election. During those protests, peaceful protestors were arrested and habitually detained. They are still in detention as we speak. There are more than 130 people in detention now in Cameroon. Some of them have not even taken part in the demonstration. Maurice Kamto was arrested in the house of a friend. Lawyer Michelle Ndoki and hip hop artist Valsero are among the people arrested and still in detention.
I'll just show you how systematic the crackdown and the repression is in Cameroon. There is a woman who has been arrested. Basically, the woman was the cleaning lady. She was present in the house when security forces came in and asked people not to move. They were taken to the police station and then to the prisons. That woman is in detention now. She's accused of charges that could lead to the death penalty.
My intervention is basically around the fact that even if there are multiple crises in Cameroon, even if from afar it could seem like those crises have no links among them, there is a clear pattern in the way that the Cameroonian authorities react to the crises. It has to be stopped. It has to be stopped because we have been working on this for five years. Basically, for five years, we have been telling people to look at Cameroon, but don't look at Cameroon only thinking that it is key in the region in the fight against Boko Haram. Look also at what's happening inside the country. All signals in Cameroon are happening right as we speak.
One example of this is the fact that they denied entry to the researcher of Human Rights Watch. She tried to go into the country for a research mission just a few months ago, and she was denied entry to the country. It's always a bad signal when a country starts to deny entry to foreigners or to any people they consider to be not on their side.
Our recommendations to the Cameroonian authorities, of course, are to investigate, to send a clear message to the security forces that they should not allow impunity to prevail. For the partners of Cameroon, the human rights issue should be in the priority issues that the countries discuss with Cameroon. It shouldn't come after the security issue. It shouldn't come after the role that Cameroon is playing in the region. Those two things are linked.
Canada, as a fellow member of the Commonwealth, has one key, specific role to play. It hasn't happened yet that members of the Commonwealth will address Cameroon. It has been, for now, France and the U.S. mainly, but Canada has a role to play here in being one more actor to flag to Cameroon that although the fight is legitimate, the means it is using are wrong.