A video which appears to show Cameroonian soldiers executing two women, a young girl and a baby was widely circulated on social media last week. The video depicts two men in army uniforms assaulting the female detainees outside a village in northern Cameroon, telling them, “BH, you are going to die” (BH is slang for Boko Haram). The women and children are then led off a dirt track, blindfolded and shot dead. The Galil rifles the soldiers are carrying suggest that they are part of the Cameroonian Army’s Rapid Intervention Battalion who have a history of human rights abuses while battling the extremist armed group, Boko Haram.
According to research by Amnesty International and other experts, the shocking video constitutes credible evidence of an extrajudicial killing carried out by Cameroonian soldiers in the Mayo-Tsanaga region. The government of Cameroon initially denounced the video as “fake news,” but has since announced a formal investigation.
Cameroon’s security forces are also embroiled in a rapidly deteriorating conflict in the country’s Anglophone regions. Widespread protests during 2016 against the marginalization and under-representation of English-speakers were met with violent repression by the government, leading to dozens of deaths and mass displacement. In October 2017 English-speaking separatists symbolically proclaimed the independent state of “Ambazonia.” Since then, violence between security forces and armed separatists has escalated. Government forces have arbitrarily arrested and tortured detainees, and have destroyed a number of villages throughout the Anglophone regions. Armed separatists have also carried out human rights abuses.
There is growing concern that upcoming presidential elections scheduled for 7 October will lead to further intensification and militarization of the conflict in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions. President Paul Biya has been in power since 1982 and announced on 13 July that he will be running again for the presidency.
It is not too late to avert the growing risk of mass atrocities in Cameroon. The security forces must immediately end the use of disproportionate and deadly force against civilians and the government must ensure that the human rights of all Cameroonians are equally protected. All soldiers and police officers responsible for unlawful killings and the torture of detainees must be held accountable for their actions.
Twelve people were killed in Nicaragua over the weekend of 13-15 July as the security forces sought to forcibly remove a number of barricades and roadblocks set up by anti-government protesters in Masaya and other cities. The dead included two people who were shot during a siege of a church in Managua where more than a hundred students, priests and journalists had taken refuge.
Mass anti-government protests began in April in response to proposed changes by President Daniel Ortega to the national social security system. The intensity of street demonstrations then increased due to outrage over the disproportionate and deadly use of force against protesters and the failure of the government to hold those responsible accountable. Some protests have also become increasingly violent with several police officers killed.
The Organization of American States (OAS) and UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have documented police and pro-government militias committing widespread human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, denial of freedom of assembly, and enforced disappearances. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights believes that since April at least 273 people have been killed in the violence, with 38 killed on 8 July alone.
There is a growing risk of potential mass atrocity crimes in Nicaragua as the government appears unwilling to end the use of disproportionate and deadly force against protestors. Nearly a month after negotiations stalled, the government should meaningfully reengage with the Catholic Church-led mediation process. OHCHR and the OAS should continue to investigate all alleged grave violations and abuses of human rights in Nicaragua.
Despite a ceasefire negotiated by the Egyptian government on Sunday, 15 July, the situation in the Gaza Strip remains tense. Over the weekend of 13-15 July more than 200 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza into Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups. In retaliation Israel carried out its heaviest airstrikes on Gaza since a 2014 war that lasted 50 days and claimed over 1,500 civilian lives. While appealing for both sides to deescalate the conflict, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process said that Gaza was once again “on the brink of war.”
The crisis in Gaza has intensified over the past four months due to a series of mass demonstrations along the border with Israel. Since 30 March at least 150 Palestinians have been shot dead by the Israeli Defense Forces along the border fence and over 14,600 Palestinians have been wounded. Under international law, Israel’s military blockade of Gaza, in force since 2007, is a potentially illegal form of collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants.
It is essential that Israel and the Hamas de-facto administration in Gaza respect and uphold the ceasefire negotiated last weekend. In order to permanently end recurring armed conflict, all parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should re-establish peace talks and work towards a sustainable political solution. Israel must lift the blockade on Gaza, cease illegal settlement-related activity, and end the use of disproportionate and deadly force against Palestinian protesters. The Hamas de-facto administration in Gaza must permanently halt indiscriminate rocket and mortar attacks on Israel. All parties should also cooperate fully with the preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court.