EIJI Digital Verification Project

Last summer, the EIJI collaborated with researchers from Leiden University to conduct a Digital Evidence Verification Project. One of our research teams, in partnership with the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis Database of Atrocities, worked on verifying incidents of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Cameroon military or members of non-state armed groups. This project has since been extended into this year. Edinburgh International Justice Initiative is delighted to report that the project has been an outstanding success, with the publication of 3 reports. The success of the project led to an expansion in our legal research teams and the scope of investigation for digital evidence verification. 


The Anglophone Crisis is an ongoing conflict in Cameroon’s North-West and South-West regions. For some further information on the Anglophone Crisis, please review this previous blog post.

For an introduction to digital evidence verification and its role in the international law community, have a look at this interview the EIJI previously conducted with Dr. Emma Irving, Assistant Professor of Public International Law at Leiden University.

About the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis Database of Atrocities

The Database is an apolitical, nonpartisan project established in December 2019 that stores evidence around atrocities and human rights violations that occurred over the course of the Anglophone crisis. The aims of the Database are to secure and verify evidence that can be used in future accountability procedures and the reconciliation process in the long term and to counter the culture of impunity pervading this conflict.

Hosted at the University of Toronto, the Database is staffed entirely by trained volunteers, and securely stores all incident information that is (anonymously) submitted through their website, WhatsApp, Signal, or email. The evidence ranges from incidents of police officers acting with excessive force against civilians to graphic instances of burning and looting of villages. The Database currently stores more than 1200 pieces of evidence, from photos to videos, audio clips, and other documents.

Researchers attempt to verify the incidents of the most significant investigative potential and determine when and where they happened and who was involved, through geolocation, chronolocation, and additional evidence. Each incident forms the basis of a verification report, which may be used in future justice and accountability procedures.

The role of the EIJI research team

Our researchers make use of OSINT (Open-Source Intelligence) to verify incidents – this includes Google Earth satellite images, weather data, Invid, and other visual data on the Internet. Before undertaking a project, researchers receive full training from our contacts at the Database in digital evidence verification.

Researchers are able to geolocate by identifying distinctive features in the photo or video (such as the curvature of roads, distinctive hills, or any such unnatural features) and using corroborating satellite imagery to pinpoint the coordinates in Cameroon. The date and time of the incident can be similarly determined through sun and weather data.

Corroborating evidence plays an essential role in digital evidence verification. For example, if the main evidence is a video clip, our researchers use Invid to run a reverse image search of notable frames in the video, to find similar images. If the evidence is difficult to analyse (such as a low-resolution video or a ‘generic’ image), social media can help find similar images, videos, or eyewitness evidence taken in the same suspected location. The Database also partners with on-ground organisations in Cameroon, such as CHRDA (Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa), a local NGO, to bolster investigations. 

Verification reports

After receiving and analysing a piece of evidence, the team begins to write the verification report. In these reports, our team gauges the probative value of this evidence (if it could be used in accountability procedures) and details the corroborating evidence used. This process usually takes 3 weeks to a month, with close collaboration between our research team and the Database.

The EIJI research team has successfully published 3 verification reports since the project began in summer 2020. The first report related to protests which occurred in 2016 at the University of Buea which were met with military violence. Our researchers successfully geolocated 8 video clips taken over the city and the university campus. The other reports involve evidence collected about a certain village in North-West Cameroon in early 2020, where the Cameroon military allegedly participated in looting and burning down houses and marketplaces.

Currently, there is one research team at EIJI working on the digital evidence verification project. Ultimately, the work of the Database and our research team has helped to store and analyse information about atrocities committed during this conflict, and aid the long-term process of restoring peace and justice to the region after the conflict ends. 

We would like to extend a huge thank you to the Legal Research Team and to the Database for not only their work on the project but also for their help on this piece. We look forward to continuing our work with the Database for the rest of the academic year.
*This blog post discusses sensitive information that may be triggering for some individuals. EIJI is an impartial organization that seeks to inform people about contemporary issues of international justice. Views, information, and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect EIJI, its team or Edinburgh University. If you are interested in hearing more about our content approach please read our previous post on EIJI content philosophy.*

Human rights violations in Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis

Four years ago, a violent conflict began in the Southern regions of Cameroon, termed as the Anglophone Crisis, or the Ambazonia War. It began with protests by lawyers and teachers in Buea and Bamenda concerning the domination of the French language in these Anglophone regions. They saw this as an escalation of the already prominent marginalisation of Anglophones in Cameroon. The protests were an immensely popular movement; and on November 21, the so-called ‘coffin revolution’ occurred in Bamenda, demanding economic and political reforms. On October 1, 2017, military secessionist groups proclaimed the independence of a new nation, including these two regions, called Ambazonia. The conflict and political protests have further escalated following the Cameroon parliamentary election earlier this year, with both separatists and the government deploying additional and often excessive forces. Over the course of the conflict, an estimated 5000 people have been killed, and 680,000 displaced.

Numerous human rights violations have been carried out by both the Cameroon military forces and separatist fighters throughout the conflict. For instance, both factions allegedly targeted and carried out attacks on hospital and medical staff. On July 6, separatists killed a Doctors Without Borders health worker in the southwest region, while on June 30, security forces damaged a health facility in the northwest region. There have also been numerous accusations of killings, assaults and kidnappings of people with disabilities on both sides.

Furthermore, armed separatists have allegedly killed, assaulted and tortured several civilians from various groups, including students, teachers, clergy, women and children. On one occasion a group of separatists kidnapped around 40 people, beat and robbed them in Bafut, in the northwest region. Throughout the clash, separatists have used schools as their base, by enforcing boycotts of education, holding people hostage in them and deploying fighters and weapons from them. On February 16, separatists abducted a teacher, two guards and 170 students under the age of 18 from a boarding school in Kumbo in the northwest region, only releasing them  the following  day. 

Security forces have since cracked down on all instances of political opposition, whether evident or suspected. However, they have done so by killing civilians, torching villages, and using torture and incommunicado detentions. It thus comes as no surprise that this year has seen a widespread of reports of killings, property destruction and use of torture by authorities. One example of this being a brutal attack on the village of Meluf in the Northwest region where Cameroonian soldiers, gendarmes and soldiers belonging to BIR (Rapid Intervention Battalion) forcefully entered 80 homes and burned down 7. The government has also responded with violence towards those suspected of having ties to separatist groups. Reports have emerged of severe beatings and near-drownings committed against suspects at the State Defence Secretariat prison in the capital, Yaounde. 

President Paul Biya faces increasing backlash and unrest in response to the bloodshed in Anglophone regions since the beginning of the crisis. Civilians and political parties, spearheaded by Maurice  Kamto ( who leads the Cameroon Renaissance Movement party), have been publicly calling for president Biya’s ouster, citing his 38-year tenure as head of state and lack of sufficient response to the crisis. On September 22, hundreds of people gathered in protests in Douala and Yaounde, calling for electoral reform and an end to the conflict, shouting slogans like ‘Paul Biya must go.’ Authorities responded with similar violence, breaking up peaceful protests, and arresting opposition party leaders and supporters.Tear gas and water cannons were also used to break up the protests, while hundreds of people, including 8 journalists, were unnecessarily arrested and detained. Authorities have since vowed to prosecute those arrested in the protests, and pursue those fleeing, while Mr Kamto remains under house arrest. The Human Rights Defenders Network in Central Africa has described this clampdown as “serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Dishearteningly, the government appears to have failed to take accountability by preventing efforts to document human rights violations in the Anglophone regions.  In April, a Human Rights Watch researcher was denied access to the country with no reason being provided for this decision. Following this, an investigation was due to be carried out into the alleged burning of 70 homes by security forces in Mankon, Bamenda – the corresponding report was expected by May 24 but has still yet to be seen.

Although France and member states of the African Union have either sided with the government or taken a neutral stance, the overall international response has been a mounting increase of pressure on Cameroon to call a ceasefire. In February, the United States announced that it was reducing its security assistance to Cameroon after allegations of human rights violations committed by the Cameroonian military emerged. In March, the UK called on Cameroon to engage with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, after expressing concern about the situation and lack of accountability in the Anglophone regions. Germany similarly announced an end of its military cooperation with Cameroon in July. Additionally, peace talks have taken place between the government and jailed leaders of the Ambazonia Interim Government (IG) in an attempt to find some common ground and progress towards a solution, however, despite this, the violence continues. Since January, at least 285 civilians have been killed in the northwest and southwest regions, while tens of thousands of people found themselves displaced over the past two months. The UN High Commissioner has expressed concerns over the allegations of human rights violations and the Cameroonian government’s efforts to prevent their coverage. Their most recent response has been to urge the government to carry out transparent investigations, going forward.


Human Rights Watch World Report 2020 (Cameroon): https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/world_report_download/hrw_world_report_2020_0.pdf

Cameroon’s escalating Anglophone crisis shows little sign of abating: https://www.dw.com/en/cameroons-escalating-anglophone-crisis-shows-little-sign-of-abating/a-53906409

Civilians Killed in Anglophone Regions: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/27/cameroon-civilians-killed-anglophone-regions

Protestors call for end to bloodshed from Anglophone crisis: https://www.africanews.com/2020/09/23/cameroon-protesters-call-for-end-to-bloodshed-from-anglophone-crisis/

Cameroon’s “president for life” is facing protests as the Anglophone crisis rumbles on: https://qz.com/africa/1910195/cameroon-s-biya-faces-protests-as-anglophone-carries-on/

*This blog post discusses sensitive information that may be triggering for some individuals. EIJI is an impartial organization that seeks to inform people about contemporary issues of international justice. Views, information, and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect EIJI, its team or Edinburgh University. If you are interested in hearing more about our content approach please read our previous post on EIJI content philosophy.*

Author: Nikita Nandanwad

Editor: Kelsey Greeff

Editor in Chief: Zora Stanik