The Cameroonian authorities must immediately release two young men due to stand trial on 18 August on charges of homosexuality and repeal the discriminatory law used to imprison them, Amnesty International said today.
The two men – a 19-year-old known only as Jonas, and a 20-year-old known only as Francky – were arrested on 25 July in a car outside a night club in the Cameroonian capital, Yaoundé.
They have been charged under Section 347a of the Cameroonian Penal Code, which criminalizes same-sex sexual acts, and are being held at Yaoundé’s Kondengui central prison.
“Given the high level of officially sanctioned homophobia in Cameroon, those arrested under this law are at risk of attack or other forms of ill-treatment by fellow prisoners, or by prison authorities, because of their alleged sexual orientation.” said Erwin Van Der Borght, Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director.
“Cameroon should repeal this draconian law. By arresting people purely because of their alleged sexual orientation, the Cameroonian government is flagrantly violating international human rights treaties which it has signed or ratified.”
Jonas and Francky are the latest in a series of young men arrested under Section 347a. If convicted, they could face up to five years in prison.
In March this year, Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment after sending SMS messages to a male acquaintance.
He is serving his sentence at Kondengui central prison, known for its overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate food supplies.
Mbede is said to be in poor physical and mental health and to have been denied medical treatment. He told visitors that he has been sleeping on the ground since his imprisonment in March. He is currently appealing against his conviction and sentence.
Amnesty International considers Mbede to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely because of his real or perceived sexual orientation. It has called on the authorities to ensure he is not subjected to any form of ill-treatment, harassment or violence.
Arrests, detentions and trials of gay men, as well as people who are suspected of being gay, occur on a regular basis under Section 347a of the Cameroonian Penal Code.
Section 347a has been in force since 1972, but has only in the last few years been so stringently enforced.
“Detentions under the law appeared to have dropped in recent years, following a peak of arrests in 2005-6,“ said Erwin Van Der Borght.
“But over the past few months, such arrests appear to be on the rise again. We urge the Cameroonian authorities to rethink this discriminatory legislation and comply with their obligations under international human rights law.”