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UN experts urge Cameroon to stop detaining and intimidating peaceful protesters

Fourteen independent human rights experts of the United Nations Monday, called on Cameroon to liberate the main opposition leader Maurice Kamto and other persons who were arrested during the peaceful protests in the country, and to stop intimidating political activists.

Maurice Kamto has been under house arrest with his family since the night of September 22. Security forces prevented him from communicating with his party members and lawyers, and from taking part in protests.

The experts also called on Cameroon to impartially investigate all human rights violations, including allegations of disappearances, arbitrary detention and mistreatment of demonstrators, and bring the perpetrators to justice.

In Cameroon, more than 500 people were reportedly arrested following protests organized by the MRC Cameroonian opposition on September 22, and some 200 are still in detention.

UN experts have also expressed concern about the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters by Cameroonian security forces. “The violence against the protesters was disproportionate, with the use of tear gas and water cannons to violently disperse them,” they said.

Protesters rallied across the country in response to the appeal launched by the opposition movement Mouvement pour la renaissance du Cameroun (MRC) to demand for a national dialogue, a reform of the electoral system and for peace to return in the English-speaking regions of the country. Cameroonian authorities have banned demonstrations in parts of the country and have declared any attempt to gather illegal. The government has also deployed a strong security force to prevent peaceful protests.

Experts also expressed concern at reports of torture of peaceful protesters and journalists in detention. “It is really unacceptable,” they said. “The prohibition of torture and any form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is absolute under international human rights law, and cannot be justified,” they stressed.

The experts say those arrested they risk being accused of terrorism and endangering national security and being tried by a military court for exercising their fundamental freedoms.

The experts:

Clément Nyaletsossi VOULE, Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression and opinion; Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), José Guevara Bermúdez and Seong-Phil Hong, members of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Tae-Ung Baik (Chair-Rapporteur), Henrikas Mickevičius (Vice-Chair -Rapporteur), Bernard Duhaime, Houria Es-Slami, and Luciano Hazan, members of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

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