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    US calls for respect of human rights in NW, SW, highlights sanctions

    The American Senate in its latest published resolution has called on the Cameroonian authorities and the separatists in North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon to respect human rights.The American Senate in its latest published resolution has called on the Cameroonian authorities and the separatists in North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon to respect human rights.

    Paul Biya
    Paul Biya (c) Droits réservés


    Among other things, it notes that “fact-finding missions in Cameroon could serve to advance peace and enforce justice by holding responsible parties accountable for human right abuses, and promoting reconciliation.”
    The resolution on February 27, 2020 also highlights sanctions Cameroon is facing as a result of human rights violations. “Secretary of State has publicly designated the Inspector General of the Cameroon Gendarmerie as ineligible for entry into the U.S. due to his involvement in significant corruption related to wildlife trafficking” the resolution reads.

     It also mentions Cameroon’s dismissal from the list of AGOA beneficiaries.


    Read full resolution below 

    Res. 292Sen. Cardin

     Report by the African affairs committee
    In 2016, the Government of Cameroon violently repressed demands by teachers, students and lawyers in the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon that the government hear their voices and bring an end to marginalization and suppression.[1] Peaceful demonstrations ended in bloodshed, and by 2017, escalated into a full-blown armed conflict.[2]
    Today, the conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon has caused over 3,000 deaths, 500,000 internally-displaced persons and 40,000 refugees in Nigeria, and has deprived more than 700,000 children of school.[3] The Norwegian Council places Cameroon on the top of its list of most neglected countries in crisis.[4]

     In addition to the humanitarian crisis, the presidential elections of 2018, which were “marked by irregularities, including intimidation of voters and representatives of candidates at polling sites, late posting of polling sites and votes lists, ballots stuffing, voters with multiple registrations, and alleged polling manipulations,”[5] underscored the need for systemic reform in the electoral process.
    Following the presidential elections results, the government of Cameroon suppressed the right to protest and arrested any person who did, including main opposition leader, Maurice Kamto, who placed second in the election according to official results.[6] More than a year after the presidential elections, the political situation is still unsettled, as President Biya himself acknowledged during his traditional New Years message to the nation.[7]

     I. THE U.S. SENATE SHOULD PASS S. RES. 292 ON CAMEROON
    The U.S. Senate should pass S. Res. 292 currently pending in the Senate.[8] The Senate resolution espouses the same principles as the ones passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the European Union, both of which call for an inclusive dialogue to resolve the armed conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon.[9] Passage of the Senate Resolution is an important step in underscoring our support for peace, human rights, and democratic principles in the region and throughout the international community.

     Cameroon is in the midst of a humanitarian and political crisis. Senate Resolution 292, along with the House Resolution and the E.U. Resolution, can pave the way for additional U.S.-led actions, including using available foreign policy tools to sanction Cameroon for human rights abuses, urging the United Nations to conduct an international commission of inquiry on Cameroon, and, along with support from the European Union and African Union, urging Cameroon to reform its electoral process.
    II. THE US. GOVERNMENT SHOULD MAKE USE OF AVAILABLE FOREIGN POLICY TOOLS TO SANCTION CAMEROON OVER HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
    The U.S. Government, working together with Congress, can make use of foreign policy tools to sanction the Government of Cameroon, non-Government armed groups and perpetrators of human rights violations.

     On October 31, 2019, the President of the United States notified Congress of his intent to terminate the designation of Cameroon as a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) under section 104 of the Act due to “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights”[10] and concerns about “persistent gross violations of human rights being committed by the Cameroonian government against its own citizens.”[11] As a result of the President’s determination, Cameroon stands to lose substantial trade preferences granted under the Act.[12]
    The U.S. has other considerable leverage it can impose on nations and on individuals committing “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”
    First, the Secretary of State can sanction foreign officials responsible for corruption and human rights violations under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2019. [13]

     Based on credible information of (a) “involvement in significant corruption, including corruption related to the extraction of natural resources,” or (b) “a gross violation of human rights,” the Secretary of State can deny foreign officials and their immediate family members entry into the United States.[14] The law requires the Secretary of State to publicly or privately designate such foreign officials and immediate family members who have been denied entry into the U.S.
    Pursuant to Section 7031(c), the Secretary of State has publicly designated the Inspector General of the Cameroon Gendarmerie as ineligible for entry into the U.S. due to his involvement in significant corruption related to wildlife trafficking.[15] The Secretary of State should make the same designation for Cameroonian officials when credible information exists of involvement in corruption and human rights violations in the conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions, and in the fight against Boko Haram in the Far North.[16]
    In the last few years, a series of horrific crimes has been committed in Cameroon, but the Government has failed to undertake credible investigations, to conduct fair and transparent trials, or to bring perpetrators to justice. Crimes include the murders of Charles Wesco and Florence Ayafor.[17]
    Although often confronted with clear evidence of military involvement, the Government of Cameroon has acknowledged its responsibility for crimes, such as the extrajudicial killing of women and their children,[18] only under the weight of international pressure.
    Thus, the Secretary of State should publicly designate high-ranking Cameroonian military and government officials based on credible information of crimes against civilians, human rights abuses or corruption, and hold them accountable.
    Second, the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act is another foreign policy tool available to the United States Government.[19] The Global Magnitsky Act allows for the imposition of sanctions based upon “credible evidence” of human rights abuses or corruption.[20] With respect to human rights abuses, the Act requires “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” defined by reference to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.[21] Gross violations of internationally recognized human rights include torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, prolonged detention without charges or trial, forced disappearance of persons, or flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty or security.[22]
    The Global Magnitsky Act empowers the U.S. Government to sanction foreign persons responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross violations of human rights committed against individuals in any foreign country who seek to expose illegal activities of government officials or to promote internationally-recognized human rights or freedoms.[23] The sanctions apply not only to perpetrators but also to their agents.[24] The Global Magnitsky Act also authorizes sanctions against government officials and their senior associates who engage in corruption.[25]
    Sanctions include denying entry into the United States and blocking transactions in all property interests of a foreign person within U.S. possession or control, including asset freezes for funds held in U.S. banks.[26] Thus, the Act can effectively block an individual’s access to the U.S. financial system.[27] Implementation of the Act is entrusted to the Secretary of Treasury in consultation with the Secretary of State and Attorney General.[28]
    Human rights organizations have long documented the multiple violations committed by the regime of President Biya against its own people. These include extrajudicial killings, torture and incommunicado detention, forced disappearances, sexual violence, and attacks on journalists. [29] In the conflict in Anglophone Northwest and Southwest, armed separatist groups are also accused of committing atrocities.[30]
    The United States should impose further targeted sanctions against Cameroon military, government officials, authorities, and armed groups under the Global Magnitsky Act for crimes committed in the Anglophone regions and in the fight against Boko Haram in the Far North region, and for other violations of human rights in Cameroon.
    III. THE UNITED STATES SHOULD URGE THE UNITED NATIONS TO CONDUCT AN INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON CAMEROON
    The United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights visited Cameroon in May 2019.[31] While in Cameroon, the High Commissioner of Human Rights met with President Biya, government officials and certain civil society leaders. However, the High Commissioner of Human Rights has not visited the conflict zones, nor has the High Commissioner of Human Rights issued a report as of December 2019.[32]
    The United States should urge the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights to establish an International Commission of Inquiry on Cameroon, with the mandate to conduct a fact-finding mission, and investigate violations of international human rights[33] in order to determine whether acts of genocide or internationally-recognized human rights violations have taken place and to identify the perpetrators of such violations.[34]
    Since 2006, the Human Rights Council has mandated thirty-one commissions of inquiries, fact-finding missions and other bodies.[35] For example, in 2017, the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, pursuant to a Human Rights Council resolution, dispatched a team of international experts to the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to investigate and report on violence, human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law.[36] The Council then issued recommendations to the DRC Government to, among other things, intensify efforts to protect human rights, bring all who are responsible to justice, and promote reconciliation by addressing the root causes of the conflict.[37] In 2016, the Human Rights Council established a commission of inquiry to investigate and report on human rights violations in Burundi for the purpose of holding responsible parties accountable for human rights abuses.[38]
    Thus, fact-finding missions in Cameroon could serve to advance peace and enforce justice by holding responsible parties accountable for human rights abuses, and promoting reconciliation.
    IV. THE UNITED STATES SHOULD URGE CAMEROON TO REFORM ITS ELECTORAL PROCESS, AND ASK THE EUROPEAN UNION AND AFRICAN UNION TO JOIN IN THE EFFORT
    The Presidential elections of October 2018 resulted in a post-electoral crisis and crackdown on opposition leaders.[39] The Cameroonian community, African Union, European Union and United States Government have all called for a consensual modification of the electoral process in order to fully implement a democracy.[40] Following the elections, the African Union Election Observation Mission concluded that Cameroon’s legal framework requires strengthening “in order to safeguard the democratic principles of separation of powers, fairness, and independence and impartiality.”[41] The United States Department of State, while not taking a position as to whether or not the irregularities affected the outcome, observed that such irregularities “created an impression that the election was not credible or genuinely free and fair.”[42] It endorsed the African Union’s recommendation that Cameroon’s legal framework be strengthened.[43] Accordingly, the United States should urge the Cameroon government to invite all political stakeholders to join in a consensual review of the electoral process, and should ask the European Union and African Union to join, along with the United States, in providing assistance to Cameroon to strengthen its electoral processes and reform electoral institutions.
    African Affairs CommitteeVictoria Safran, ChairDoris Toyou, Francophone Africa Subcommittee Chair
    February 2020

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