Troops in the West African nation of Cameroon have tortured prisoners at a remote military base that is also used by U.S. personnel and private contractors for drone surveillance and training missions.
As the U.S. military has fortified the Cameroonian site, known as Salak, and supported the elite local troops based there, the outpost has become the scene of illegal imprisonment, brutal torture, and even killings, according to a new investigation by The Intercept and the Goldsmiths, University of London-based research firm Forensic Architecture, based on extensive research by Amnesty International. Nearly 60 victims held at Salak described to Amnesty International how they were subjected to water torture, beaten with electric cables and boards, or tied and suspended with ropes, among other abuses.
Forensic Architecture investigated conditions of detention and torture at two sites of illegal incarceration, run by Cameroon’s security forces, to accompany a new report by Amnesty International. See the full investigation here.Video: Forensic Architecture
No evidence has emerged that U.S. personnel were involved in torture, but photos and videos from Salak show U.S. soldiers and civilian contractors near the facilities where prisoners were held, and detainees testified to seeing and hearing Americans in uniform during their imprisonment.
“We can’t be 100 percent sure that Americans were aware of the torture,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International’s lead researcher on a new report about abuses by Cameroonian forces. “But our evidence demonstrates that at Salak these practices occur in places that are accessible and can be visible to U.S. and other foreign personnel.”
Salak serves as ground zero for Cameroon’s fight against the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, a campaign that the United States has thrown its full support behind. Last month, President Donald Trump sent a letter to Congress outlining current “deployments of U.S. Armed Forces equipped for combat.” In addition to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia, Trump mentioned Cameroon, where “approximately 300 United States military personnel are also deployed, the bulk of whom are supporting United States airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations in the region.”
Over the last decade, the United States has devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to Cameroon (more than $111 million in security assistance since 2015) while training its elite military force and providing everything from arms to humanitarian aid to development assistance.
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