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Thank you, Mr President,
Since the elections in Cameroon last October, we have witnessed tensions in the country, particularly in the so-called 'Anglophone regions', repression of demonstrations and the narrowing of the political space.
Key opposition figures are under arrest and face military trials. More than a hundred protesters or sympathisers are facing prolonged detentions. Defence lawyers claim that Cameroon's own legal procedures are not being respected. A de facto ban has been imposed on marches and protests of the opposition, which is clearly not in line with the constitutional rights of Cameroonian citizens.
We have been following the situation closely and constantly.
On behalf of all the 28 Member States we have asked for the release of detainees against whom hard evidence cannot be produced and we asked for an immediate halt to violence, to human rights violations and hate speech. I insist on this message today and I thank you for putting this important debate on the agenda today, to stress this message in a unified manner.
Regarding the situation in the English speaking regions of the Northwest and Southwest, we have consistently called for dialogue as the only way to achieve a sustainable solution, in a non-violent and inclusive manner, respecting fundamental rights and the rule of law.
Regrettably, unlawful killings and atrocities continue to be reported regularly, allegedly involving both the security and defence forces and separatist groups. The humanitarian consequences of this situation are alarming, with about half a million internally displaced people and over 32,000 refugees from Cameroon registered in Nigeria.
We have raised our call for restraint and dialogue directly with the authorities of Cameroon. In particular, we are following closely the cases of the 47 Anglophone leaders that are in jail, insisting on the need for a fair and transparent trial.
These tensions add to the continuing attacks by Boko Haram in the Far North, as well as in Chad, Niger and Nigeria. We know that Boko Haram is not invincible, and has suffered major setbacks. Yet we are seeing civilian deaths and losses by the security forces in Cameroon.
Given that new refugees from Nigeria have lately arrived in the Far North region of Cameroon, I wish to join the recent appeals from the UNHCR that the universal principle of "non-refoulement" has to be fully respected.
These are the reasons why we need to continue our humanitarian support as part of the international humanitarian response on the various fronts. If we consider both the Internally Displaced People and the refugees coming from Nigeria and the Central African Republic, there is about one million people in need of help. I believe we have a humanitarian duty that we need to respond to.
This is something we cannot forget, when assessing our future support to the people of Cameroon.
At the same time, we will continue to push for the respect of human rights in Cameroon, and to ask to shed full light on human rights violations.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-170857