Jailed for 3 years: Jean-Claude Roger Mbédé

A new report by Amnesty International paints a horrifying picture of abuses perpetrated against the LGBTI community in Cameroon, including forced anal exams.

In Republic of Cameroon: Make Human Rights a Reality, Amnesty says that it has documented “a notable increase” in the number of routine arrests, detentions and torture of people because of their real or perceived sexual orientation since the mid-2000s.

The report states that most of those detained have been targeted “on the grounds of their perceived sexual orientation,” rather than on any alleged participation in prohibited acts and that victims are often scared to seek protection from the police, “who too often participate in the abuse and subject individuals suspected of being [LGBT] to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, including beatings”.

The organisation also claims that men believed to be gay are forced to undergo anal examinations in custody “in a mistaken belief by the authorities that the examinations can prove whether or not people are engaging in same-sex relations”.

According to the report: “Some of the men accused of practising homosexuality have been subjected to anal examinations by medical personnel on the orders of judicial officials. Such forced examinations constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The participation of medical personnel in forced anal medical examinations is also a violation of medical ethics.”

Amnesty International’s Cameroon researcher and author of the report, Godfrey Byaruhanga said: “There’s no justification whatsoever for this illegal, degrading treatment. It represents a severe breach of medical ethics and has to end immediately.”

Cameroon’s Ministry of Justice admitted to Amnesty that “Rectal examinations are carried out on presumed homosexuals upon request by investigators or judicial and legal officers in compliance with the laws and medical ethics that require practitioners to obtain the consent of the person concerned”.

Amnesty points out that the World Medical Association and the UN General Assmeny have prohibited physicians from being in any way involved in the practice of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and that the sole relationship health personnel should have with detainees is to “evaluate, protect or improve their physical and mental health”.

Amnesty International also reports that some alleged LGBTI individuals have been arrested after they were accused of practising same-sex relations by people who had tried and failed to extort money from them.

Earlier this month, an appeals court overturned the conviction of two men who were jailed for “looking gay” because they wore women’s clothes. Jonas Kimie and Franky Ndome spent more than a year in prison following their arrest outside a nightclub in the capital Yaoundé in July 2011.

Meanwhile, the three year jail sentence against Jean-Claude Roger Mbédé, who was arrested in March 2011 after sending a text to a man saying that he was in love with him, was upheld in December. He has suffered from malnutrition and regular beatings in jail. 

In addition, defence lawyers for LGBTI people have received death threats against themselves and their children for defending homosexuals.

Amnesty’s report notes that the plight of LGBT people in Cameroon is part of widespread human rights abuses in the country, including unlawful killings, torture and the abuse of the criminal justice system to clamp down on political opponents, human rights defenders and journalists.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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