Oral declaration by the International Federation of ACAT to the 57th session of the Commission on human rights (2001)
Agenda Item 9 : Violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms wherever they occur in the world
FI.ACAT would like to draw the attention of the members of the Commission on Human Rights to serious human rights violations in two African countries, Togo and Cameroon.
The report by the UN and OAU International Committee of Inquiry into the situation in Togo, published on 22 February 2001, concludes that human rights are systematically violated in Togo, in particular by torture, rape and numerous extrajudicial executions. It also refers to several cases of disappearances, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment and inhuman detention conditions which sometimes result in death.
Faced with these devastating conclusions the Prime Minister of Togo, in his official reaction addressed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, declared the report ’inadmissible’ and described it as a political concoction aiming to discredit the Togolese Government and people.
The international community today can no longer silently ignore the crimes of a 34-year-old dictatorship whose system of government is founded on brutal repression.
FI.ACAT appeals to you, Mr President, to ensure that the Commission on Human Rights follows the recommendations of the International Committee of Inquiry, in particular :
By appointing a special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Togo ;
By giving a mandate to the special rapporteurs on, respectively, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, torture and violence against women to make periodic visits to Togo ;
By recommending that the Togolese authorities, who have just agreed to set up an impartial and independent criminal investigation, do so without delay so that the perpetrators of the crimes can be brought to justice and punished ;
By supporting the establishment by the United Nations High Commission of a witness protection system so that the crimes can be investigated and the establishment of a system to prevent future violations.
In Cameroon, the disappearance of nine young people after their arrest by security forces on 23 January 2001 provoked vigorous demonstrations in Douala at the beginning of March.
These young people were suspected of having stolen a bottle of domestic gas ; they were handed over to the Operational Command post and, according to several witnesses including members of the security forces, were executed without trial between 31 January and 8 February 2001, and their bodies burned with acid. Their families have contacted the civilian and military authorities to try to find out what happened to them but their efforts have been in vain.
These nine summary executions are a telling example of the iniquitous methods used by the Operational Command unit which was set up in February 2000 by President Biya to keep order in the Littoral province.
In an interview for Jeune Afrique Economique in September 2000, Cardinal Tumi, Archbishop of Douala, referred to more than 500 Cameroon citizens who had been executed by this special security force. Since that time the list has grown longer.
The situation is so serious in Littoral province that families notify disappearances to ACAT Cameroon every day.
Under pressure from the national and international community, the Operational Command unit has been disbanded. But these criminal acts have continued. The Operational Centre of the Douala gendarmerie, set up in January 2001, seems to be using the same repressive measures : torture and arbitrary execution of people who have been arrested and detained continue to go unpunished.
FI.ACAT is extremely concerned by the total absence of the rule of law in Cameroon and appeals to you urgently, Mr President, to ensure that the Commission on Human Rights :
Approves the constitution of an international committee of inquiry and its immediate dispatch to investigate the crimes committed by the security forces and persuade the State of Cameroon to compensate the victims ;
Calls on the Government of Cameroon to invite the Commission on Human Rights special rapporteur on summary or arbitrary extrajudicial executions to visit as soon as possible.
29 March 2001