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:Mary Pais Da Silva

On 17 February 2023, in Ethiopia’s rustic resort of Bishoftu, more than 5000Km from her homeland, Mary Da Silva was announced winner of the 2023 AfricanDefenders Shield Award, in the presence of hundreds of colleague human rights defenders from 36 African countries. It was a fitting validation for the Eswatini human rights lawyer, whose sense of empathy and sensitivity to injustice has been a defining hallmark of her career.
Born 45 years ago in Lubombo, eastern Eswatini, the last of 4 siblings, Mary attributes her values to her upbringing. Although she was born in Eswatini, her parents are originally from Mozambique, and only relocated to eSwatini at the start of the Mozambican civil war that lasted between 1977-1992, which ravaged families and displaced many others. As one of the earliest to escape and settle in Eswatini, Mary’s family shouldered the responsibility of being a gateway for many other Mozambicans escaping the violence in their country for a more peaceful and stable livelihood in Southern Africa. This experience was illuminating for Mary