A Cameroon soldier carries a wounded colleague during a field training exercise conducted as part of Central Accord 2016 in Gabon, on June 21. Amnesty International on Thursday accused members of Cameroon's Rapid Intervention Brigade of arbitrary arrest and detention of more than 1,000 people in crowded and unsafe jails. Photo by Sgt. Sha'Quille Stokes/U.S. Army/UPI
LONDON, July 14 (UPI) -- More than 1,000 people in Cameroon, many arrested for alleged support of Boko Haram, are being tortured and dying of disease while in captivity, a rights group said Thursday.
A report by the London-based, non-governmental humanitarian organization Amnesty International cited cases of detainees living in jails where malnutrition and disease are rampant. It specified Maroua prison, where it said six to eight people die each month.
Arrests by Cameroon police, sometimes targeting entire villages, have increased the prison population, the report said. In one instance, 32 men were arrested on accusations the village was supplying Boko Haram with food, and though most of the men were eventually released, one died in custody.
Amnesty International also cited a 2014 incident in which the Cameroonian army's Rapid Intervention Brigade killed seven men in the village of Bornori, arrested 15 others and returned the following week to burn houses. It described the killings as unlawful.
The group also documented evidence from 29 people who said they were tortured while in custody.
"In seeking to protect its population from the brutality of Boko Haram, 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, an Amnesty International director. "With hundreds of people arrested without reasonable suspicion that they have committed any crime, and people dying on a weekly basis in its overcrowded prisons, Cameroon's government should take urgent action to keep its promise to respect human rights while fighting Boko Haram."
Boko Haram has used terrorist tactics in its attempt to establish an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria, and as its power declines, members have crossed the borders into neighboring countries.