Jailed for attempted homosexuality.?

Having worked at Amnesty for a few years I’ve come across a few so-called “crimes” in my time which various countries have devised to serve as a reason to imprison (or execute) people, normally those who are causing a nuisance to the state.  But this latest charge of “attempted homosexuality” in Cameroon has to be one of the most bizarre.

Just before Amnesty’s LGBT Campaign Manager gave an interview to Gaydar Radio about Jean-Claude Roger Mbede yesterday, she and I were discussing what exactly this offence means.  It appears that despite Mr Mbede being locked up for three years for this charge, along with homosexuality, the charge “attempted homosexuality” doesn’t actually exist on the country’s Penal Code. 

Judges appear to have made up the offence to ‘ensnare’ men who are accused of being gay but haven’t been caught in the act.

31-year old Jean-Claude was arrested in March this year during a meeting with a male friend. Before the meeting, his acquaintance had shown text messages he had received from Jean-Claude to the police. He then told the authorities where he was planning to meet Jean-Claude and that – it seems – was enough to arrest, detain and now imprison Jean-Claude.  Both Pink News and Pink Paper pick up the story.

It’s a worrying situation for LGBT people in Cameroon. Homophobia is rife in the country – even Cameroon’s own National Human Rights Commission refuses to recognise and defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Gay men are arrested, prosecuted and tried on a regular basis. Cameroon is one of about 60 countries around the world where it remains a crime to be gay. Its laws and practices totally violate international human rights treaties which it signed up to, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which guarantees all citizens freedom from discrimination (Article 2); and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which guarantee all citizens freedom from discrimination and equality before the law (Articles 2.1 and 26) and the right to privacy (article 17).

These laws which so flagrantly breach international human rights laws are putting Cameroon’s own citizens at grave risk of attack. 

Amnesty considers anyone who’s been imprisoned for their sexual orientation to be a prisoner of conscience and is urging supporters to call on the Cameroonian government to immediately and unconditionally release Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, to ensure he is safe and well-treated while in prison where he is at risk of attack from other prisoners and the guards and to immediately repeal the section in the penal code which seeks to criminalise ‘homosexual tendencies’ and to stop relying on a charge which doesn’t even exist in the penal code. 

You can take action at www.amnesty.org.uk/lgbt

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