At least 20 people are languishing in prison in Cameroon on homosexuality charges, with one awaiting trial for 16 months.
A meeting on Sunday with six prisoners by a delegation of activists from the US and Africa was documented by journalist Andy Kopsa on her blog.
The activists were able to arrange with prison authorities in the capital Yaounde to see the six prisoners; five men and one woman.
“Of the six two have been ‘condemned’,” wrote Kopsa. “This is their word, condemned, their trials had taken place and sentences handed down. One man is to serve two years, the woman is in for five.
“The others – those not condemned still sit in prison. One has been in Yaounde for 7 months, one for 4 months the other for 16 months. None has been tried and all are being held (counter to the Cameroonian constitution) without official charges. They are in prison for ‘suspected homosexuality.'”
The prisoners all claimed to have been abused by prisoners and prison officials. There is no healthcare and no beds in the prison and prisoners must buy their own food.
“Of the six prisoners, two families abandoned them, one had periodic visits from an aunt, the other’s parents were dead and other two said nothing. Abandonment, stigmatisation and often brutal beatings by a LGBT person’s family precede an imprisonment. And if there is no jail time, the gay member is cast out by family and village,” said Kopsa.
“This is the standard, not the exception.”
Kopsa noted that the only lawyer who was willing to defend those arrested for homosexuality with any degree of conviction was forced to flee Cameroon with his family after receiving death threats.
Cameroon is said to have the highest rate of conviction of LGBT people in the world. At its UNHRC Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights last year, the country rejected recommendations to ensure people’s basic right not to be killed, raped, or assaulted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In July 2013, leading Cameroonian LGBT activist Eric Ohena Lembembe was mutilated and murdered in his home. Two weeks earlier, he’d publicly condemned the state’s inaction following several attacks on human rights defenders. Lembembe’s murder remains unsolved.
In January, 34-year-old Cameroonian Roger Jean Claude Mbede, who survived brutal imprisonment and torture for being gay, was allowed to die by his family. He passed away after his family took him out of hospital, where he was being treated for a hernia, apparently because they believed he’d be better off dead than be gay.