Torture and Detention in Cameroon
Since 2014, Cameroon has been at war with Boko Haram, an armed extremist group responsible for thousands of murders and abductions across the Lake Chad Basin.
Trained and supported by U.S. and European governments, and armed by Israeli private companies, the Cameroonian security forces act with increasing impunity against civilians in the country’s Far North region.
Between 2015 and 2016, Amnesty International collected evidence of over a hundred cases of illegal detention, torture and extra-judicial killing of Cameroonian citizens accused of supporting or being a member of Boko Haram, at around twenty sites across the country.
Using testimony and information supplied by Amnesty International, Forensic Architecture reconstructed two of these facilities—a regional military headquarters, and an occupied school—in order to confirm and illustrate the conditions of incarceration and torture described by former detainees.
At the two sites, detainees were kept in degrading and inhumane conditions in dark, crowded, airless cells. All were fed poorly, and most were tortured routinely. Dozens of detainees report witnessing deaths at the hands of Cameroon’s elite military unit, the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), or the Cameroonian intelligence agency, the DGRE.
Forensic Architecture’s research also uncovered the presence of U.S. personnel—military and private contractors—at one of the sites. Using satellite imagery, open-source material, and images gathered from social media, Forensic Architecture demonstrated the proximity of those personnel to sites of incarceration and torture, raising troubling questions for continued American support of Cameroon’s security forces.
A companion article, co-authored with U.S. news website The Intercept, explores some of the further material uncovered in the course of our investigation.
Forensic Architecture team
Eyal Weizman (principal investigator)
Omar Ferwati (project coordinator)
Did Americans know about torture at Africa’s ‘Guantanamo’? | Daily Beast, 17 August 2017
Torture de présumés jihadistes au Cameroun: le Pentagone lance une enquête | RFI Afrique, 8 August 2017
US military launches inquiry into torture allegations at Cameroon base | CNN, 4 August 2017
Pentagon denies knowledge of Cameroon base abuses – despite being aware of reports of torture | The Intercept, 31 July 2017
Pentagon investigating if U.S. troops knew of torture at Cameroonian base | Foreign Policy, 27 July 2017
In the war on Boko Haram, is the U.S. turning a blind eye to Cameroon’s abuses? | The Washington Post, 26 July 2017
The high cost of ignoring torture in Cameroon | All Africa Institute for Security Studies, 26 July 2017
Cameroonian Troops Tortured and Killed Prisoners at Base Used for U.S. Drone Surveillance | The Intercept, 20 July 2017
Cameroon ‘torturing people accused of supporting Boko Haram’ | The Guardian, 20 July 2017
Amnesty International accuses Cameroon of torturing suspects | New York Times, 20 July 2017