By Nformi Sonde Kinsai
The Government of Cameroon, through the Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, has refuted allegations levelled at the country’s defence and security forces for orchestrating torture and committing extra-judicial killings of arrested Boko Haram suspects.
The allegations are contained in a January 15, 2015 report prepared by an NGO, the Network of Human Rights Defenders in Central Africa known by its French acronym, REDHAC.
The report, which was made public at a press briefing in Yaounde on February 18, 2015, and forwarded to the UN Human Rights Council, denounces what the authors qualify as severe abuses committed by the defence and security forces against the population of the Far North Region of Cameroon.
It notes that the investigations conducted by the forces to fish out Boko Haram members are done under abnormal circumstances where the population they are called upon to protect are terrorised. Members of the NGO are calling on the UN body to ensure that reparations are paid to the victims. They are also calling for the trial and punishment of the perpetrators of the acts in tandem with international instruments.
The Managers of the NGO are also “calling on the UN to support the civil society in its effort to abolish Paragraph 1 of Article 2 of the Law of December 23, 2014, to suppress acts of terrorism in our country,” Tchiroma stated during a press conference in Yaounde on March 13.
Claiming that there are two compatriots leading the NGO, Tchiroma said the author “…emphatically indicates that he holds an evidence of a mass slaughter perpetrated by our soldiers towards the end of December 2014, by asphyxia, on civilian population, with suspected connections with the Boko Haram criminal sect… in the Far North Gendarmerie Legion.”
The Minister claims that the leaders of the NGO are working to discredit the efforts of the valiant defence and security forces and to prevent Cameroon from getting the support of the international community in the fight against Boko Haram.
Insisting on stating the facts and setting the records straight, Tchiroma said, following the reigning insecurity between the Mora-Kousseri stretch of the road, an operation was organised in the villages of Magdeme and Doublé in the night of December 26 to 27, 2014, to counter planned aggression by Boko Haram. He said the 70 suspects arrested were transferred to the Maroua Gendarmerie Legion for further investigations.
Tchiroma narrated that, upon arrival in Maroua, 14 of the arrested suspects were taken to the cells of the Maroua Territorial Brigade, while 56 others were kept in custody in a building purposefully prepared at the Maroua Gendarmerie Legion because of overcrowded cells of the Gendarmerie and the Maroua Central Prison.
“Before the planned screening of December 28, 2014, it was discovered early that morning upon the opening of the door that 25 out of the 56 suspects had died. The requested forensic doctor expert performed autopsies on the corpses and ordered their burial [which] was immediate… to avoid further contamination. Two senior military officers… including a magistrate, were sent to the field to conduct wide-ranging inquiry.
The case was then handed over to the military judiciary. Its investigations are underway, while waiting for a ruling against the culprits,” Tchiroma stated.
He, nonetheless, said, at the current stage of the investigations, no evidence has been established to corroborate the point that the arrested suspects were deliberately killed. He revealed that the Commander, who was on command at the time of the incident, was sacked and handed over to the competent court for further investigations.
“… Some terrorists of the Boko Haram group, who escaped during the… operations in Magdeme and Doublé, returned to these localities in the night of December 28, 2014, to ambush our defence forces, in response to the arrest of their criminal counterparts.
“Two Cameroonian soldiers were killed in that ambush, without provoking any emotional strain to the managers of the ‘REDHAC’ NGO, and who never deemed it necessary to express their solidarity following the brutal and mutilated killing of hundreds of their innocent and defenceless compatriots, not leaving out the raping of women or the cold-blooded killing of children in an indescribable barbarism,” Tchiroma told the press.