Cameroon violates human rights laws by detaining gay men

Troy Espera | October 13, 2006

In an opinion issued Wednesday, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared that the nation of Cameroon violated international human rights laws by detaining 11 men because they are gay.

The 11 men were arrested at a bar frequented by gays and lesbians in Yaound�, Cameroon. While in prison, the detainees faced harsh conditions and homophobic attacks from fellow prisoners.

The men were detained for more than one year on anti-homosexuality offenses rising from Cameroon�s Penal Code.

The UN human rights body further called on the government of Cameroon to remedy the situation, including the possible repeal of the offending law.

Wednesday�s ruling came in response to a complaint brought by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on behalf of the men.

At their trial in June 2006, nine of the men were found guilty of �sodomy� and sentenced to ten-month jail terms. One of the men, Alim Mongoche, died of AIDS-related complications shortly after his conviction, exacerbated by the harsh conditions of detention.

�I hope this decision will bring justice for gay people and will prevent cases like that of Alim, who died needlessly,� said Marc Lambert, one of the 11 former detainees, in a statement issued to the media.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has declared that sodomy laws are inconsistent with countries� obligations to protect the right of non-discrimination under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

�The opinion reinforces the fact that laws which criminalize and discriminate based on sexual orientation are contrary to international human rights law,� said Philip Dayle, Legal Officer at the ICJ, in a media statement.

This decision by the Working Group marks one of only two occasions that this particular UN human rights body has publicly issued an opinion impugning detentions based on anti-homosexuality laws.

�Perhaps the Working Group�s decision will help stop other people from being arrested and possibly dying simply because of their sexual orientation,� stated Joel Gustave Nana, Human Rights Researcher for Alternatives-Cameroun, in a press release.

On June 7, 2006, four women were also convicted of sodomy. The were sentenced to three years of probation and threatened with 6 months imprisonment �if they continue their lesbianism.� – Issued by Gay Link Content

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