from ROSY SADOU in Yaoundé, Cameroon
YAOUNDE, (CAJ News) – THE international human rights community has demanded that Cameroon releases some 200 opposition activists held in custody since protests held more than three weeks ago.
They could face terrorism and national security charges and trial in a military court for their demands for national dialogue, electoral system reforms and the return of peace to English-speaking regions of the country.
Demonstrators turned out across the Central African country in response to an appeal by opposition party Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC).
More than 500 people reportedly were initially arrested.
The government’s response is the latest crackdown by the administration of President Paul Biya on opposition activists.
“We are extremely worried about mass arrests of peaceful protesters and political activists who express dissent,” United Nations experts jointly stated.
They expressed concern at excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators by the Cameroonian security forces.
“The violence against protesters was indiscriminate, with tear gas and water cannon used to violently disperse them,” the experts stated.
The experts also expressed alarm at reports of torture of protesters and journalists in detention. “This is truly unacceptable.”
Maurice Kamto, the MRC president, is the most high profile figure detained.
Security forces have reportedly prevented him from communicating with party members and lawyers.
Cameroon has been in crisis in recent years following opposition to alleged misrule by Biya’s government.
Militants in English-speaking regions are also agitating for independence citing alleged marginalization by government.
– CAJ News