Cameroon: Jailed for three years for sexual orientation

Thousands of Amnesty International supporters are appealing to the authorities in Cameroon to immediately and unconditionally release a man who has been jailed for charges of homosexuality and attempted homosexuality.

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was arrested in March by members of Cameroon’s security service while meeting an acquaintance. Prior to the meeting, the man he was meeting had showed text messages he had received from Jean-Claude Roger Mbede to the police.

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was taken into custody on suspicion of homosexuality at the Gendarmerie du Lac detention centre in Yaoundé. He was held there for seven days before being charged with homosexuality and attempted homosexuality and transferred to Kondengui central prison on 9 March. 

On 28 April, Jean-Claude was found guilty of homosexuality and attempted homosexuality and sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment.  He is currently serving his sentence at Kondengui central prison where he is at risk of homophobic attacks, as well as ill-treatment by fellow inmates or prison authorities because of his real or perceived sexual orientation. 

Homophobia is endemic in Cameroonian society and the arrests, prosecutions and trials of gay men occur on a regular basis.

Amnesty International’s LGBT Campaign Manager Clare Bracey said:

“Locking someone up for their real or perceived sexual orientation is a flagrant breach of basic rights and should not be allowed under any country’s penal code.   Because of the state’s intolerance to homosexuality and the general social attitude, homophobia is rife in Cameroon and Amnesty International fears for the safety of Jean-Claude Roger Mbede while he is in prison.

“We’re urging the Cameroonian government to repeal this law under the penal code in accordance with its international human rights obligations, and to immediately and unconditionally release Mr Mbede.”

Prison conditions in Kondengui are harsh, with inmates suffering overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate food. Prison guards are poorly trained, ill-equipped and their numbers inadequate for a large prison population.  Mbede’s lawyers are currently appealing his sentence.

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