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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                            

Republic of Cameroon

Boko Haram insurgents continue to conduct attacks in the country’s Far North region, and state security forces there have been accused of torturing alleged Boko Haram collaborators, many of whom are held without charge. Prison conditions are often dire.

[Freedom House Country Report, 2018]

Description: Description: Cameroon

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Cameroon.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

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Cameroon security forces torture 59 opposition supporters – Amnesty International

Agency Report, 29 July 2019

[accessed 31 July 2019]

AI in a new report alleged that the 59 opposition supporters were beaten with sticks and forced into humiliating positions at the State Secretariat for Defence (SED), in the capital Yaounde.

The human rights organisation alleged that the supporters were arrested on June 1, during a planned peaceful protest in the capital, Younde.

“Like many other unofficial detention centres across Cameroon, the SED has a reputation for torturing detainees. These repressive and brutal tactics to silence dissent must end, said Amnesty West and Central Africa Director, Marie-Evelyne Barry.

“We were beaten in the ears and on our bodies. They then forced us to walk like a duck in the mud.

“After our release, I spent more than a week at the hospital as I had fractures, bruises and trauma,” one detainee told the organisation after his release.

Cameroon: Routine Torture, Incommunicado Detention

Human Rights Watch, 6 May 2019

[accessed 8 May 2019]

Human Rights Watch documented 26 cases of incommunicado detention and enforced disappearance at the SED detention site between January 2018 and January 2019, including 14 cases of torture. The total numbers are likely much higher, because abuses are committed in secret and many former detainees are reluctant to speak because they fear reprisals. Human Rights Watch has received further credible accounts since April, indicating that these violations continue.

Torture has long been endemic in Cameroon’s law enforcement and military system, especially against people suspected of being members of or supporting the armed group Boko Haram or armed separatist groups. The authorities have detained people incommunicado and tortured detainees at the SED since at least 2014. The torture methods Human Rights Watch documented, including severe beatings and near-drowning, have also been used in both official and illegal, unofficial detention facilities throughout the country.

Inside Cameroon’s Bunker: “Different guys had different torture techniques”

Emmanuel Freudenthal, African Arguments, 7 May 2019

[accessed 8 May 2019]

Melou’s beating began with a similar immediacy. His torture was filmed by his tormentors themselves. The video, shared on social media, shows Melou lying in the mud while gendarmes kick his head and beat his feet with machetes. A BBC Africa Eye documentary tracked the location of the video as being outside the courtyard of the gendarme station in the village of Nkgonle in the Southwest region. In the film, the forces accuse Melou of killing their colleagues; he says he is just a farmer.

The Bunker’s cells are reportedly so packed that prisoners cannot lie flat on the ground to sleep. Instead they have to sleep sideways or seated. Many are chained together so they cannot even go alone to the toilets. Moreover, they say they are beaten by the guards daily. “Every morning time, they have to give you seven strokes under your legs,” says Melou, confirming what other detainees have said. “They use planks.”

This is often just the start of torture that continues through the day. One method used is called the balançoire (“the swing”). Guards handcuff prisoners’ hands together and tie their legs with a metal chain. A metal rod is passed between the hands and the victim is lifted and held up, hanging between two or three chairs. “When they put you like that,” says Melou, “it just paralyses you. You cannot do anything again.” The guards then beat the detainee with whatever they have at hand, from wooden spoons to electric cables.

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Cameroon

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 7 July 2021]


As in the previous year, government security forces were believed to be responsible for enforced disappearances of suspected Anglophone separatists or their supporters. Multiple credible organizations documented the case of Samuel Abue Adjiekha (aka “Wazizi”), a news anchor for Buea-based independent radio station Chillen Muzik and Television Pidgin. Wazizi was detained on August 2, 2019, and pronounced dead on June 5. Wazizi was accused of having connections with armed Anglophone separatists. He was transferred to a military-run facility in Buea on August 7, 2019, and never appeared in court, despite several scheduled hearings. In a June 5 press release, the Defense Ministry asserted Wazizi died of severe sepsis on August 17, 2019 (see also section 1.c.).


Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were reports that security force members tortured or otherwise abused citizens, including separatist fighters and political opponents. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documented several cases in which security forces severely mistreated political opponents and others in which armed separatists mistreated civilians and members of defense forces. Public officials, or persons acting at their behest, reportedly carried out acts that resulted in severe physical, mental, and emotional trauma

Credible organizations including the CHRDA reported that Reverend Thomas Nganyu Tangem died chained to his hospital bed in Yaounde in July. He was a member of the Mbengwi Monastery in the Northwest Region and was arrested at Mile 16 in Buea in 2018 and transferred to Yaounde where he was allegedly tortured while in detention for two years without charge. Equinoxe Television reported that on several occasions, prison authorities dismissed concerns expressed by other prisoners regarding his health. On July 25, prison authorities took him to Yaounde Central Hospital, where he was shackled to his hospital bed. He died a few days later on August 5. Tangem was never officially charged with a crime.


Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening due to food shortages and poor-quality food, gross overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

Access to food, water, sanitation, heating and ventilation, lighting, and medical care was inadequate. Consequently, malnutrition, tuberculosis, bronchitis, malaria, hepatitis, scabies, and numerous other treatable conditions, including infections, were rampant.

Freedom House Country Report

2018 Edition

[accessed 11 May 2020]


Boko Haram insurgents continue to conduct attacks in the country’s Far North region, and state security forces there have been accused of torturing alleged Boko Haram collaborators, many of whom are held without charge. Prison conditions are often dire.

In December 2017, government forces were accused of burning several whole villages in one of the Anglophone regions, in response to a deadly separatist attack against a military base in which four soldiers were killed.

U.S. security aid enables torture in Cameroon

A. Trevor Thrall and Jordan Cohen, United Press International UPI, 14 August 2018

[accessed 15 August 2018]

Making matters worse is the fact that this sort of behavior is nothing new in Cameroon. In 2017, Amnesty International revealed that the Cameroonian military tortured prisoners in over 20 sites, and recorded 101 cases of incommunicado detention and torture between 2013 and 2017. Chillingly, the report also notes that many of these actions took place at the same military base used by U.S. personnel for drone surveillance and training missions. During the U.S. fortification of this site -- known as Salak -- Amnesty International found that suspects were subjected to water torture, beaten with electric cables and suspended with ropes, among other horrors.

Cameroon security forces torturing English speakers, Amnesty says

Stephanie Busari, Cable News Network CNN, 11 June 2018

[accessed 12 June 2018]

In the report titled, "A turn for the worse: Violence and human rights violations in Anglophone Cameroon," victims gave harrowing accounts of beatings and allegations of simulated electrocution and torture carried out by the military as well as attacks on schools and teachers by armed Anglophone separatists.

"They ... gagged us and tied our faces with our towels and shorts ..." he said.

"They then made us lie in the water, face down for about 45 minutes. ... During three days, they beat us with shovels, hammers, planks and cables, kicked us with their boots and poured hot water on us ... when I tried to move and shouted, one of them used the cigarette he was smoking to burn me."

Amnesty said it had also received information about numerous instances of deaths in custody.

UN Committee tells Cameroon to put an end to torture by security forces in the fight against Boko Haram

Amnesty International, 6 December 2017

[accessed 7 December 2017]

Based on submissions from organisations including Amnesty International, the UN Committee noted that large numbers of people from Cameroon’s Far North region are likely to have been held incommunicado and tortured by members of the military and the intelligence services in at least 20 illegal detention facilities between 2013 and 2017.

The Committee also raised concerns that this torture took place with the likely knowledge of senior BIR and intelligence officers at one military base, and that dozens of people may have died following torture and inhuman conditions of detention.

Committee against Torture examines report of Cameroon

Committee against Torture, 9 November 2017

[accessed 11 November 2017]

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts welcomed Cameroon’s acceptance of the simplified reporting procedure, and its commitment to combat prolonged pre-trial detention, to increase the number of courts and legal personnel, to address prison overcrowding, and to improve detention conditions.  However, Experts raised concern about allegations of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances that had taken place in the context of the fight against Boko Haram, and the use of excessive force when dealing with the crisis in the English-speaking regions of the country.  They also voiced concern about delayed ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention, lenient sentences for the crime of torture, the independence of the special division for the monitoring of the police force, the use of secret detention centres and military courts as part of the anti-terrorist struggle, detainees’ access to legal aid and independent medical examinations, payment of bribes to avoid long pre-trial detention, forcible refoulement of Nigerian refugees on the pretext that they were members of Boko Haram, and harassment of journalists and human rights defenders.  Other issues raised were female genital mutilation and other traditional harmful practices, the rivalry between the executive and judicial branches, domestic violence, prison overcrowding, juveniles in detention, and mechanisms for compensation of victims of torture or ill-treatment.

More than 1,000 people accused of supporting Boko Haram held in horrific conditions, some tortured to death

Amnesty International, 14 July 2016

[accessed 3 August 2016]

More than 1,000 people, many arrested arbitrarily, are being held in horrific conditions and dozens are dying from disease and malnutrition or have been tortured to death, as part of the Cameroonian government and security forces crackdown on Boko Haram, Amnesty International revealed in a new report published today.

Tortured to death while detained incommunicado - Amnesty International documented 29 cases of people being tortured by members of the security forces between November 2014 and October 2015, including six who subsequently died. Most cases of torture were committed while people were held incommunicado at illegal detention sites in military bases run by the BIR in Salak, near Maroua, and Mora, before being transferred to the official prisons. Victims described being beaten for long periods with sticks, whips and machetes, sometimes until they lost consciousness.

“We were all interrogated in the same room, one by one, by a man dressed with the BIR uniform. Two other men in plain clothes carried out the beatings and other torture. That day, two prisoners were beaten up so badly that they died in front of us. The men in plain clothes kicked them and slapped them violently, and hit them with wooden sticks.”

Report: Cameroon officials torture gay suspects

Robbie Corey-Boulet, Associated Press, ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, 21 March 2013

[accessed 21 Aug  2016]

[accessed 20 July 2017]

Suspected homosexuals in Cameroon say they have been tortured and raped in prison, according to a report released Thursday by Human Rights Watch and three local organizations.

The 55-page report, titled "Guilty by Association," documents reported abuses by authorities prosecuting suspected gays and lesbians. Those convicted can face up to five years in prison in Cameroon.

The report documents the case of one man who was tied to a chair and beaten so badly he couldn't walk for two weeks. Another defendant described being raped repeatedly and said his rib was broken in a beating.

"Prison guards made no attempt to stop the gang rape and assault, and no one was punished for it, highlighting another sad irony of Cameroon's law: People are convicted to prison time for consensual sexual conduct, but once in prison, convicts who are not considered 'homosexual' can sexually victimize them with impunity," the report said.

Neela Ghoshal, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said many cases rested on confessions obtained during beatings and torture or on suspects' appearance and other behavior.

Free Men Charged Under ‘Sodomy’ Law

Human Rights Watch, Johannesburg, August 17, 2011

[accessed 22 January 2013]

Three men returning from a bar last month in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, were detained by police because two of them appeared feminine, Association pour la Défense de l’Homosexualité (ADEFHO) and Human Rights Watch said today. The three were jailed on July 25, 2011, for one week and were tortured and otherwise abused by police during this time, according to a Cameroonian civil society group that has been working on their behalf.

Jonas told ADEFHO that police slapped him and beat him on the soles of his feet to make him confess to being homosexual – both Jonas and Franky confessed. They also intimated that they did not receive food while in custody.

Scars of torture from Cameroon -- Maria fled to Britain and sought asylum after brutal treatment at the hands of police in her native Cameroon

Richard Holt, The Telegraph, 28 May 2010

[accessed 19 Jan 2014]

Desperation left her feeling she had no option but to "do something that nobody in Cameroon does". She went to the police and started asking questions.

She was immediately arrested and put in a cell. They kept her there for three days and repeatedly raped and tortured her.

"At first I tried to fight them. But at some point I just gave up, knowing I would never win."

It was as they beat her that she was told about her father's involvement with a political party opposed to the government. As she is speaking about what happened in the cell, her eyes stare into the middle distance and her face freezes.

“I can’t talk about that any more. It is in my past and I don’t want to bring it back.”

She was detained on two further occasions, for days at a time, and again tortured and sexually abused. After she was detained the second time her younger sister came to find out what was happening. She was also arrested and forced to endure physical and sexual abuse.

After Maria was released for the third time, she was told her life was in danger and was advised to leave the country as soon as possible. She paid an agent and was brought to Britain.

 Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  -- Doc. CAT/C/CR/31/6 (2004)

[accessed 24 February 2013]

4. The Committee recalls that, in 2000, it found that torture seemed to be a very widespread practice in Cameroon, and expresses concern at reports that this situation still exists. It is troubled by the sharp contradictions between consistent allegations of serious violations of the Convention and the information provided by the State party. In particular, the Committee declares serious concern about:

(a) Reports of the systematic use of torture in police and gendarmerie stations after arrest;

(b) The continued existence of extreme overcrowding in Cameroonian prisons, in which living and hygiene conditions would appear to endanger the health and lives of prisoners and are tantamount to inhuman and degrading treatment. Medical care reportedly has to be paid for, and the separation of men and women is not always ensured in practice. The Committee notes with particular concern the large number of deaths at Douala central prison since the beginning of the year (25 according to the State party, 72 according to non-governmental organizations);

(c) Reports of torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary detention perpetrated under the responsibility of certain traditional chiefs, sometimes with the support of the forces of law and order.

5. The Committee notes with concern that:

(a) The draft code of criminal procedure has still not been adopted;

(b) The period of police custody may, under the draft code of criminal procedure, be extended by 24 hours for every 50 kilometres of distance between the place of arrest and the place of custody;

(c) The time limits on custody are reportedly not respected in practice;

(d) The periods of police custody under Act No. 90/054 of 19 December 1990 to combat highway robbery (15 days, renewable) and Act No. 90/047 of 19 December 1990 on states of emergency (up to 2 months, renewable) are too long;

(e) The use of registers in all places of detention has not yet been systematically organized;

(f) There is no legal provision establishing the maximum duration of pre-trial detention;

(g) The system of supervision of places of detention is not effective, responsibility for prison administration lies with the Ministry of Territorial Administration. The prison supervisory commissions have been unable to meet regularly and, according to some reports, public prosecutors and the National Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms seldom visit places of detention;

(h) The concept of a "manifestly illegal order" lacks precision and is liable to restrict the scope of application of article 2, paragraph 3, of the Convention;

(i) Appeals to the competent administrative court against deportation orders are not suspensive, and this may lead to a violation of article 3 of the Convention.


For current articles:: Search Amnesty International Website

[accessed 25 December 2018]

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2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 20 April 2018

[accessed 20 February 2020]


There continued to be reports of arrests and disappearances of individuals by security forces, particularly in the northern and Anglophone regions. According to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), some activists arrested in the context of the crisis fueled by perceptions of marginalization in the northwest and southwest Anglophone regions could not be accounted for as of November. Family members and friends of detained persons were frequently unaware of the missing individual’s location in detention until after a month or more of attempting to locate the missing individual.

Boko Haram insurgents kidnapped civilians, including women and children, during numerous attacks in the Far North region. Some of their victims remained unaccounted for as of November.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 22 January 2013]

[accessed 3 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – The law prohibits such practices; however, there were credible reports that security forces continued to regularly torture, beat, and otherwise abuse prisoners and detainees. In the majority of cases of torture or abuse, the government rarely investigated or punished any of the officials involved; however, in at least one case during the year, gendarmerie officers who tortured a citizen to death were detained and investigated (see section 1.a.). There were reports that security forces detained persons at specific sites where they tortured and beat detainees (see section 1.a.). Security forces also reportedly subjected women, children, and elderly persons to abuse. Numerous international human rights organizations and some prison personnel reported that torture was widespread; however, most reports did not identify the victim because of fear of government retaliation against either the victim or the victim's family. Most victims did not report torture for fear of government reprisal or because of ignorance of or lack of confidence in the judicial system.

In New Bell and other nonmaximum security penal detention centers, prison guards inflicted beatings, and prisoners were reportedly chained or at times flogged in their cells. Authorities often administered beatings in temporary holding cells within a police or gendarme facility. Two forms of physical abuse commonly reported by male detainees were the "bastonnade," where authorities beat the victim on the soles of the feet, and the "balancoire," during which authorities hung victims from a rod with their hands tied behind their backs and beat them, often on the genitals.

Security forces continued to subject prisoners and detainees to degrading treatment, including stripping, confinement in severely overcrowded cells, and denial of access to toilets or other sanitation facilities. Police and gendarmes often beat detainees to extract confessions or information on alleged criminals. Pretrial detainees were sometimes required, under threat of abuse, to pay "cell fees," a bribe paid to prison guards to prevent further abuse.

During the year there were reports that persons in police and gendarmerie custody died as a result of torture (see section 1.a.).

On January 8, Minister of Tourism Baba Hamadou reportedly led a group of five police officers to a gas station in Yaounde where they repeatedly beat Genevieve Toupouwou and Gregoire Angotchou, employees of the gas station. The minister had been angered by Angotchou's insistence on checking a gas coupon the minister had presented as payment. The Center Province office of the judicial police was investigating the incident at year's end.

On February 3, police officers of the GMI of the North West Province town of Bamenda assaulted and seriously wounded Nelson Ndi Nagyinkfu, the province's executive secretary of the NCHRF. During a drivers' strike, Ndi witnessed police beating street vendors and asked Celestin Abana, the commander of the police patrol, to stop the beatings. Abana ordered his troops to "finish" Ndi. Ndi filed a complaint with the province's governor, and an investigation was underway at year's end.

In March security forces beat and arrested 50 students in the West Province town of Bafoussam for participating in an illegal demonstration. The students were protesting the conviction of one of their professors who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for theft of academic materials.

There were no new developments in the January 2004 beating of a man named Bikele by police officers; or the June 2004 assault and arrest of barrister Epie Nzounkwelle by a local government official.

Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 6   Civil Liberties: 6   Status: Not Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 22 January 2013]

LONG URL   ç 2009 Country Reports begin on Page 21

[accessed 11 May 2020]

The constitution guarantees free speech, but genuine freedom of expression remains elusive. Although the 1996 constitution ended prepublication censorship, the charter’s Article 17 restricts free expression by giving officials the power to ban newspapers based on a claimed threat to public order. There are no legal provisions guaranteeing equal access to information, and libel and defamation remain criminal offenses. Judicial harassment, arrests, detentions, and torture of journalists have engendered fear and self-censorship.

The judiciary is subordinate to the Ministry of Justice, and the courts are weakened by extensive political influence and corruption. Military tribunals exercise jurisdiction over civilians in cases involving civil unrest or organized armed violence, and various intelligence agencies operate with impunity. Torture, ill-treatment of detainees, and indefinite administrative or pretrial detention are routine. The absence of habeas corpus as a fundamental principle in Francophone civil law further undermines due process. In the north, traditional rulers (lamibee) operate their own private militias, courts, and prisons, which are used against the regime’s political opponents. The Human Rights Commission, created by the government in 1992, has yet to publish a single report.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, " Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Cameroon",, [accessed <date>]