The High Court in the Cameroonian capital of Yaounde has ordered the immediate release of Alexandre D., detained for more than two years without charge or trial on allegations of homosexuality.
The ruling was received with relief by the Cameroonian gay and lesbian community, represented by Alternatives-Cameroun, Inter-LGBT in Paris and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) in New York. The three organisations hired human rights attorney Michel Togue to represent Alexandre in a habeas corpus hearing in which the judge ruled that the state had presented no relevant evidence.
Alexandre expressed gratitude to those who worked for his release. “I am really happy to be free and wish to thank those organisations who have been fighting for the protection of my fundamental rights,” he said upon exiting Kondegui Central Prison.
Alexandre was only twenty two years old when he was arrested. He had had no legal representation or external support until his case was discovered by noted human rights attorney Alice Nkom.
“We are aware of at least one other man who is still being held in Kondegui Prison because of his sexuality,” said Charles Gueboguo of Alternatives-Cameroun. “There may be dozens of others around the country and hundreds if not more throughout Africa.”
Consensual same-sex acts remain a criminal offence punishable by up to five years imprisonment under Article 347 of the Cameroonian Penal code, despite condemnation of such laws by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Human Rights Committee.
“Alexandre is the seventeenth Cameroonian person in the last year to have been released after spending time in jail or charged with homosexuality,” said Cary Alan Johnson, Senior Specialist for Africa at IGLHRC. “Clearly there is a continued attack on gay men and lesbians that must be brought to an end.”