Cameroon has expelled nearly 100,000 Nigerian refugees fleeing the violence of the jihadist group Boko Haram, victims of torture and s_xual assault by the Cameroonian army, according to a damning report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) published Wednesday.
UNHCR asked neighboring countries last year not to return anyone to northeastern Nigeria “until the situation … has improved considerably”.
The HRW report noted that deported persons were likely to face further violence, displacement and deprivation.
The NGO, which investigates allegations of human rights abuses around the world, says the report is based on interviews with more than 60 refugees.
HRW asserted that Cameroon has deported, often violently, tens of thousands of refugees since the beginning of 2015.
” Cameroon’s torture and military abuse against Nigerian refugees appears to be motivated by an arbitrary decision to punish them against Boko Haram’s attacks in Cameroon and discourage Nigerians from seeking asylum, ” said Gerry Simpson, deputy director refugees from HRW.
Boko Haram was a constant threat to communities in northeastern Nigeria. The group has launched offensives in neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
“This report is not based on anything,” said the spokesman of the Cameroonian government, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, bringing “a formal and categorical denial”.
“I would like to remind Human Rigths Watch of two things: firstly, today we have close to 500,000 refugees in our country … Secondly, Cameroon is not intended to be a nation willing to accept refugees from world, “he said.
“The allegations of torture and especially of s_xual assault (attributed to the Cameroonian military) constitute a shameless lie,” the Cameroonian spokesman added. The soldiers “receive a moral education before entering the theater of operations” and “know that anyone caught in the act of violation of the principles enacted is punished”.
“As long as we have not taken a soldier in the act of sexual assault, it will all come from the fantasies of Human Rights Watch,” he concluded.