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Cameroon: Unlawful killings, tortures and illegal detentions go unpunished - new Amnesty report reveals

People in Cameroon are being subjected to a raft of abuses including unlawful killings and torture, as the authorities seek to use the criminal justice system to clamp down on political opponents, human rights defenders and journalists and as a weapon to attack lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

In its new report Republic of Cameroon: Make Human Rights a Reality (PDF), Amnesty reveals 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.

LGBTI people in custody are forced to undergo anal examinations in a mistaken belief by the authorities that the examinations can prove whether or not people are engaging in same-sex relations.

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.”

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, Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was arrested in March 2011 after sending a text to a man saying that he was in love with him.  He suffered from malnutrition and regular beatings in jail, and his three-year sentence was upheld in December 2012. 

Defence lawyers for LGBTI people have recently received death threats against themselves and their Children's rights for defending homosexuals.

Godfrey Byaruhanga added:

“The government is adamant that it enforces the rule of law but has little to show for it on the ground. It has to prove that it means what it claims.”

Inhumane prison conditions

Amnesty’s new report also reveals how prisoners reside in horrendous conditions and suffer gross ill-treatment.  Prisoners are held in shackles and many are detained for more than 20 months without trial.  In recent years dozens of prisoners attempting to escape have been shot, injured or killed by prison guards.  In a recent visit to Yaoundé’s Kondengui and Douala’s New Bell prisons, Amnesty delegates were appalled to see there were more than 7,000 prisoners living in the two prisons which are intended to house 1,500.

Inmates in Kondengui prison eat only one meal a day and malnutrition is rife. Prison authorities informed Amnesty that most of the detainees in one wing are mentally ill and researchers saw male inmates who were completely naked amidst a crowd of other prisoners.

Clampdown on political opponents

Fear, intimidation and imprisonment have been used to clamp down on political opposition to the country’s President, Paul Biya.  The former health minister, Titus Edoza, who quit the government to stand as a presidential candidate in 1997, was later arrested on charges of corruption, and is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence, of which he has completed 15 years.  Titus recently told Amnesty delegates:

“I’m living in virtual isolation and am frightened people will forget me.”

Human rights defenders and members of their families are harassed and threatened for carrying out their work and the government fails to offer them protection.

Godfrey Byaruhanga said:

“It’s time to put an end to such blatant violations of human rights. The government needs to make it clear to security forces that human rights violations will not be tolerated, that the perpetrators will be brought to justice and reparations paid to victims.”

Download the report now (PDF)

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