In Cameroon, human rights defenders and journalists critical of the government are particularly targeted and often face harassment. Security forces have tortured, beaten, harassed, and abused citizens, journalists, detainees and human rights defenders. In the context of the government’s response to the Anglophone crisis which began at the end of 2016, unnecessary and excessive force was increasingly used by security forces to police assemblies, and peaceful protesters were subjected to arbitrary detention. Access to the internet and social media was also blocked to prevent peaceful protests and authorities have banned news outlets deemed sympathetic to Anglophone protesters.
Cameroon faced repeated attacks perpetrated by the armed group Boko Haram in the far north of the country. In responding to the threat, security forces were responsible for a number of human rights violations against the population they were meant to protect. These areas also experienced an increased curtailing of freedoms of expression, with journalists exercising self-censorship in order to avoid repercussions for criticising the government, especially on security matters. HRDs were victims of threats, intimidation and smear campaigns for having denounced security forces abuses.
In early 2015, an anti-terrorism law was ratified by President Paul Biya which allows for Cameroonian citizens to be tried in military courts and to face the death penalty. It contains vague definitions of “terrorism” including disturbing the normal functioning of public services or the provision of essential services to the population, or creating a situation of crisis within the population. The law has been used as a means to criminalise opponents of the government and HRDs leading the call to respect the human rights of citizens in Anglophone regions.