Multilateral action is needed to address the human rights crisis in Cameroon

In a letter AfricanDefenders, DefendDefenders, and partners sent to states on 12 May 2021, ahead of the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council, over 60 NGOs urge member and observer states of the Council to support action to address Cameroon’s hu­man rights crisis, including in the North-West and South-West regions, in the Far North, and in the rest of the country. 

The signatories suggest action in the form of a joint oral statement to the Council, which should include benchmarks for progress. If fulfilled, these benchmarks will cons­ti­tute a road map for Came­roon to improve its situation. If these benchmarks remain unfulfilled, the signatories write, then the joint sta­te­ment will pave the way for more formal Council action, including, but not limited to, a reso­lution esta­bli­shing an in­vestigative and accoun­tability mechanism. 

The letter details vio­la­tions and abuses commit­ted by government forces and non-state armed groups, some of which may amount to crimes under international law. Its annex contains a comprehensive summary of human rights violations and abuses committed in Cameroon since October 2016. 

“Cameroon is among the human rights crises the Human Rights Council has failed to adequately address,” the signatory NGOs write. “Given other bodies’ […] inaction, it is all the more vital for the HRC to send a clear message by stepping up its scrutiny and engagement.” 

[States] should make clear that should Cameroon fail to take concrete steps to investigate human rights violations and abuses, ensure accountability, and improve its human rights situation, more formal action will follow in the form of a resolution establishing an investigative and accountability mechanism,” the signatories conclude. 


Read the letter in English / Version française.


Human Rights Defender of the month: Esther Tawiah

In Ghana, Esther Tawiah is one of the loudest voices for women empowerment and gender. It is also why she is one of the most loathed. Born and raised in New-Tafo in the country’s eastern region, Esther grew up surrounded by a culture that frowned at the idea of women participating in public affairs, and witnessed firsthand, the backlash those who dared to challenge that cultural norm faced.

“I grew up in a society where ageism and sexism were so entrenched. As a young person, you weren’t supposed to give your opinion on public issues, especially if you were a woman. Women who dared to speak up were caricatured and branded as frustrated, unmarriageable prostitutes, all designed to shut them up,” she says.