Human Rights Watch has reported more details about last month’s arrest of three men in Cameroon for being gay.

Jonas, 19, and Franky, 20, were in the company of an older man on the night of July 25 and were returning from a bar when they were stopped by police officers of the Mobile Intervention Group in the capital Yaoundé.

According to the two detainees, the police at first assumed that Jonas and Franky were women because of their feminine appearance. Some reports said that the two men were “dressed as women”.

Upon checking their identification documents, in which Jonas and Franky were identified as male, the police took all three to the offices of the Regional Directorate of the Judicial Police where they were held until August 1.

“Police in Cameroon are arresting people for supposedly looking homosexual, which is absurd and also violates Cameroon’s constitution as well as international law,” said Alice Nkom, Director, ADEFHO. “They are relying on a discriminatory statute to punish people simply for the way they look.”

One man was released, while the two who appeared feminine were charged with “homosexuality” under Cameroon’s penal code, which criminalises consensual same-sex sexual conduct.

Human Rights Watch noted that the three men were illegally held for seven days before being charged and were not given legal representation during this time.

Members of Association pour la Défense de l’Homosexualité (ADEFHO), who are representing them, claim that police personnel tortured and harassed Jonas and Franky in custody. The third man was apparently not harassed or beaten.

Jonas told ADEFHO that police slapped him and beat him on the soles of his feet to make him confess to being homosexual. Both Jonas and Franky reportedly confessed.

The two men will be appear in the Court of First Instance in Ekounou, Yaoundé, today, August 18.

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