An international rights group, Human Rights Watch, HRW, is accusing Cameroonian soldiers of rape.
HRW in a February 26, 2021 statement titled: “Cameroon: Survivors of Military Assault Await Justice – 20 Women Raped During March 2020 Attack in Ebam” said it has gathered evidence of a revenge attack nearly a year ago by Cameroonian soldiers on a village where they raped at least 20 women.
The introductory paragraphs read in part: “An attack by Cameroonian soldiers on March 1, 2020 has come to light in which soldiers raped at least 20 women, including four with disabilities, arrested 35 men, and killed one man, Human Rights Watch said today. The attack on the village of Ebam in the South-West region was one of the worst by Cameroon’s army in recent years.
“The soldiers also burned one home, looted scores of properties, and severely beat the men they took to a military base. Based on information obtained by Human Rights Watch, there has been no effective investigation, and no one has been held accountable for the crimes.”
The incident had gone largely unreported because of stigma and fear of reprisal which discourages survivors of sexual violence from speaking out, HRW said, adding that there had been no effective investigation.
“One year on, survivors of the Ebam attack are desperate for justice and reparations, and they live with the disturbing knowledge that those who abused them are walking free and have faced no consequences,” HRW’s00000 Ida Sawy’er in a statement.
HRW’s investigation included interviews between August and January with witnesses, rape survivors and a doctor who had treated them.
“Five masked soldiers entered my home,” a 40-year-old woman told HRW.
“It was dark, and I was alone. They searched the house and stole my phone and money. One of them abused me. He said: ‘If you don’t have sex with me, I will kill you!’
“I was too afraid to say or do anything. After the rape, I ran into the bush where I spent two months. I am still upset and traumatised.”
The army has categorically rejected the report and accused HRW of siding with the separatist elements.
“We have better things to do than react to this report. Human Rights Watch is clearly complicit in the terrorists’ atrocities,” Col Cyrille Atonfack told the Reuters news agency.
Human Rights Watch has documented widespread human rights violations by members of the Cameroonian security forces in the Anglophone regions since 2017, including torture and sexual violence. There has been little to no accountability for military abuses in the English-speaking regions over the past four years, and atrocities by members of national armed forces remain largely unpunished.
The Cameroonian government has legal obligations under international law to ensure that those responsible for sexual violence and other grave crimes such as murder, torture, and inhuman treatment are investigated and prosecuted.
The government also has an obligation to provide reparations, such as compensation, livelihood support, or access to long-term medical and psychological health care for survivors of such attacks.
“Cameroonian authorities should urgently conduct an independent investigation into the Ebam attack, with support from the United Nations and the African Union, and make its findings public,” Sawyer said.
“Ensuring justice and reparations will be essential for deterring future attacks and helping survivors heal,” she added.
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