JOHANNESBURG – The United Nations human rights chief said Wednesday he was "utterly appalled" by a recent video appearing to show Cameroonian soldiers shooting to death women carrying small children as suspected Boko Haram extremists.
"I am deeply worried that these killings captured on camera may not be isolated cases," the statement by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said.
Zeid also said he was deeply alarmed by reports of abuses in Cameroon's northwest and southwest where deadly fighting has grown between security forces and Anglophone separatists. The unrest that began in 2016 with teachers and lawyers demanding respect for the regions' English education and justice systems led to a government crackdown and the emergence of armed separatists seeking an English-speaking state.
The government in largely French-speaking Cameroon has barred the U.N. human rights office from those areas, Zeid said.
Human rights groups have accused both sides of abuses including torture and the burning of homes, and the U.N. has said more than 180,000 people have fled.
The government's "heavy-handed security response" will only make life worse for civilians, Zeid said.
The government has condemned separatist attacks and defended its security forces, saying all alleged atrocities are investigated.
Warnings about Cameroon's security crisis are growing as the Central African nation faces an October election in which 85-year-old President Paul Biya, in power since 1982, says he will run again.
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