By Andrew Nsoseka, JADE
‘General Rasta’ and ‘Colonel John’ seen here displayed by the military in Bambui. Moments later, they were executed and their dead bodies displayed in public
A report published by the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, CHRDA, has called out Cameroon Government forces for normalising the arbitrary execution of suspected Separatist fighters captured in the course of fighting in the Anglophone Regions.
Contacted for a statement or reaction on the allegation, the Spokesperson for Cameroon’s Ministry of Defence, MINDEF, Col. Cyrille Atonfack simply said the state has “No time for terrorists”. He did not comment on the alleged normalised breaching, or lack of respect for the legal procedure of bringing suspects or culprits before a law court for the rule of law and procedure to be followed.
In its recent report, CHRDA, citing a case in point detailed that on July 31, 2022, elements of the Cameroonian Defence and Security Forces carried out an operation in Bambui, Mezam Division of Cameroon’s Northwest Region. The report said the operation was carried out by elements of the Groupement Polyvalent d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (GPIGN) and the Gendarmerie unit from Tubah Subdivision.
The report revealed that in the course of the operation, a number of Separatist fighters were captured and some killed. Two suspected Separatist fighters, “General Rasta” and “Colonel John,” were identified by locals as Separatist operatives in the area. The Cameroon Anglophone Crisis Database of Atrocities and CHRDA in a report say they reviewed photos taken during and after the operation and posted on social media.
“The photos taken during the operation demonstrate that “General Rasta” and “Colonel John” were initially captured alive by the State forces. The fighters are seen to be restrained, bloodied, and defenceless in these photos. In that state, it appears they did not pose any threat to the State security personnel, and it would not be possible for them to escape.
“The photos taken after the operation show the bodies of the deceased “General Rasta” and “Colonel John” on display in the middle of Bambui. Behind the bodies is a sign labelling the fighters by name. They are wearing the same clothes as in the photos taken during the operation, and their bodies feature a number of new injuries that were not present in the earlier photos. Thus, it is evident that after “General Rasta” and “Colonel John” were captured, they were likely further injured, and then executed by State security forces,” the CHRDA report said.
The Database of Atrocities and CHRDA in their recent report note that the incident in Bambui is not the first time that State forces have perpetrated extrajudicial killings of alleged Separatist fighters and civilians alike. The report also notes that in several missions, captured armed fighters or suspects are often executed and their bodies displayed in public spaces. The report regrets that as such, the summarily executed persons, civilians and fighters alike are deprived of their right to justice. The report notes that the executed persons are denied their right to a fair trial, where they are charged before a competent court and tried and, if possible, punished according to the prescription of the law. Such a move will enable the accused to also put up an argument to prove their innocence or plead their guilt.
The documented and reported disregard for the role of law go contrary to several legal instruments signed and ratified by Cameroon. The reported Bambui incident and similar ones represent a violation of multiple international legal instruments, including the Third Geneva Convention (Article 3), which holds that persons taking no active part in hostilities — including fighters who are placed ‘hors de combat’ by sickness, wounds, or detention — must be treated humanely, and cannot be harmed, executed without proper court judgment, or otherwise degraded. As such, the execution of suspected or accused Separatist fighters who have been captured and detained by Government troops is extrajudicial and even a breach of law on the part of the executioners.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its Article 10 says: “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.” This right has constantly been denied those arrested, detained and then executed in relation to the Anglophone Crisis.
Like other several legal instruments, domestic and international, Article 6(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, states that: “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” The right to life of the suspects as humans has been taken away by soldiers who in this case act like judges and executioners.
In its pursuit of the war against Separatists in Cameroon’s English-speaking Regions, Government forces have been accused severally of faulting rules of war and acting in a lawless manner that makes them blur the lines of war ethics. The disregard for the rule of law by Government soldiers in their treatment of persons accused or suspected to be Separatist operatives leave communities in some sort of anarchy, where whoever has the power is right, and thus it keeps making the society spiral into more chaos and anarchy because no one follows the rule of law, even Government soldiers who pass for law enforcement officers.