At least six civilians have been killed since May by armed separatist groups in English-speaking regions of Cameroon, including a humanitarian worker and a teacher, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday.
Human Rights Watch also said that the country’s own armed forces are responsible for “grave abuses”.
The Northwest and Southwest regions have been gripped by conflict since separatists declared independence in 2017 after decades of grievances at perceived discrimination by the francophone majority.
“Cameroonian armed forces have attacked a health facility in the Northwest region and arbitrarily arrested seven health workers in the Southwest, while armed separatists have killed at least six civilians, including a humanitarian worker and a teacher, since May 2020,” HRW said in a statement.
The violence took place despite peace talks between the government and jailed leaders of the Ambazonia Interim Government (IG), a separatist group, on June 16.
Other separatist groups, such as the ‘Ambazonia Governing Council’ and a splinter faction of the IG did not participate on the peace talks.
“The talks between the government and separatist leaders should include ensuring respect for human rights and accountability for abuses,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“All parties to the talks should publicly commit to immediately end abuses against civilians and ensure that victims of abuses have access to effective remedies.”
Human Rights Watch has previously called for individual sanctions on members of the military and separatist groups responsible for grave abuses in the Anglophone regions.
Based on information reported by the media and nongovernmental organizations, Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 285 civilians have been killed in about 190 incidents since January 2020 in the North-West and South-West regions.
Violence has been on-going in the country since late 2016 as separatists seek independence for the country’s minority Anglophone regions.
Violence has also displaced tens of thousands of people in the past two months, adding to the hundreds of thousands who have fled their homes since the conflict began.
Human Rights Watch interviewed by telephone, 20 victims and witnesses of human rights abuses by armed separatists and government forces between mid-May and early June 2020, as well as 15 family members of victims, residents of the Anglophone regions, doctors, and members of civil society.
Security forces and armed separatists have both attacked hospitals and medical staff on multiple occasions.
On July 06, separatists killed a Doctors Without Borders community health worker working in the South-West region, after accusing him of collaborating with the military.
Cameronian security forces meanwhile damaged a health facility in the North-West region on June 30 and arbitrarily arrested seven health workers in the South-West region on July 06.
In July, Human Rights Watch contacted representatives of three separatist groups, the IG, led by Sisiku Julius AyukTabe, its splinter faction, led by Samuel IkomeSako, and the ‘Ambazonia Governing Council.’ All denied that their fighters had committed any of these abuses. (Source: HRW)