Authorities in Cameroon have arbitrarily arrested more than 1,000 people as part of their fight against Islamist militant group Boko Haram and dozens have died of disease or have been tortured to death, Amnesty International said on Thursday.
Up to eight people are dying each month in Maroua Prison in the capital of Far North region and prisoners are kept in inhumane, overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, Amnesty said in a report.
“Cameroon is pursuing the right objective, but in arbitrarily arresting, torturing and subjecting people to enforced disappearances the authorities are using the wrong means,” said Alioune Tine, regional director for the human rights group.
Amnesty called on the government to implement measures to prevent abuses including an end to arbitrary arrests and torture and said the government should ensure detainees have access to their families and to lawyers.
The government is yet to comment on the report, which was based on interviews starting last October with more than 200 people in the Far North region that borders Nigeria and Chad.
More than 15,000 people have been killed and 2 million displaced in Nigeria and neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon during Boko Haram’s seven-year campaign to carve out an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria.
Since a regional offensive last year drove the insurgents from most strongholds, Boko Haram has waged a guerrilla-style campaign against civilians. In Cameroon, teenage girls have killed dozens in suicide bombings.
Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to Islamic State last year, although the practical extent of its links with the ultra-radical, Syria- and Iraq-based group is not known.