Cameroon isn’t responding to a BBC investigation proving its soldiers killed unarmed women

Cameroonian soldiers cover a Nigerian armoured vehicle used by Boko Haram insurgents.
Cameroonian soldiers cover a Nigerian armoured vehicle used by Boko Haram insurgents.
Image: Reuters/Bate Felix Tabi Tabe
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The government of Cameroon still hasn’t reacted to a recent forensic investigation, led by the BBC and Amnesty International, which claimed to prove that a viral video showing the killing of unarmed women and children was carried out by Cameroonian soldiers.

The video which went viral in July, showed a woman carrying a baby on her back and another one holding a little girl by the hand. They are led to an uninhabited area by a group of soldiers. The one filming the act introduces his colleagues as they lead the women and children to their death; telling them they are members of the Boko Haram terrorist group. “You are going to die,” one of them says. The victims are stopped at some point, blindfolded and shot 22 times.

Back in July, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, government spokesman initially described the video as “fake news” propagated to tarnish the image of Cameroon’s military. Bakary said this in spite of early investigations by Amnesty International which identified the location where the video was shot and matched the military fatigues and weapons in the video to those of the Cameroonian armed forces.

The minister, however, disclosed about a month later that seven soldiers suspected to have been involved in the killings had been arrested. Government declared the incident was being investigated while the soldiers were held in pretrial detention.

Samira Daoud, deputy director of Amnesty International’s West Africa office cast doubts on government claims that investigations would be carried out so that the executioners are eventually court marshaled.

This month the BBC published a report of an extensive investigation it carried out in with Amnesty International, online investigation site, Bellingcat, and others. Going by the report, investigators used satellite imagery to identify the location and time of the killings. They also analyzed the video and with additional information from Facebook, identified three soldiers who they claim pulled the trigger. The soldiers identified were listed among the seven arrested by the Cameroonian government on Aug. 10.

According to the findings, the victims were killed in Karawa, Mafa in northern Cameroon sometime around March and April 2015.

Since the release of the report on Sep. 24, the government spokesman who is usually quick to strike back at critics, has not responded to several requests by Quartz for comment.

The investigation report comes at an awkward time for the government as it is currently in campaign mode ahead of Oct. 7 elections. Aside the long-running difficulties with the Boko Haram Islamic terrorists, Cameroon is also dealing with the so-called Anglophone crisis with militant separatists in the northwest and southwest regions trying to create a new English-speaking country which borders Nigeria.

Ilaria Allegrozzi, Lake Chad Researcher at Amnesty International, told Quartz that video evidence is often vital to prove human rights violations and it can definitely be a very powerful tool for human rights defenders, and researchers.

She however noted that accountability cannot depend on video evidence; video documentation cannot become the minimum required evidence needed for concerned authorities to address human rights violations, said she.

“We urge the Cameroonian government to make sure an independent and impartial investigation is conducted on the case. We have seen in the past that all the cases documented with solid evidence by amnesty remained unaddressed and not dealt with. This is an indication of the climate of impunity looming in the country” she stated bluntly.

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