Cameroon men get six months jail for being gay

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Three men have been sentenced to six month hard labour for being homosexual.

The men were arrested in Bonapriso, Douala, on August 31st 2007 by police officers making random arrests in search of armed robbers.

After being beaten at the police station, one of the men confessed to being homosexual and implicated his two colleagues.

“As soon as the shadow of homosexuality enters into a case due process goes out of the window,” commented International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Campaign Programme Associate Joel Nana, who has been monitoring the cases.

The three men’s lawyer said she would appeal the convictions and none of the men had been found guilty of homosexual acts.

Article 347 of the country’s penal code prohibits consensual same-sex relationships. The men have been held in jail since August.

People currently detained on grounds of homosexuality all have cases riddled with irregularities and have been subject to procedures that are inconsistent with the new Cameroonian code of penal procedure.

After arrest, alleged homosexuals are detained for investigation for longer time periods that the law prescribes.

If they are lucky enough to find a lawyer, then they undergo an endless number of trials.

“This is a tactic that the court frequently uses in the cases of gay men and lesbians,” said Sebastien Mandeng, human rights researcher at Alternatives-Cameroon, the national LGBT organisation.

“They needlessly prolong the process with no legal justification in order to unofficially punish and imprison the accused.”

More than 30 people have been arrested in Cameroon in the last two years on charges of homosexuality, despite an October 2006 ruling by the United Nations that such arrests to be arbitrary and unfair.

Dozens of students, particularly girls and young women, have been expelled from schools as result of their real or perceived sexual orientation.

Alternatives-Cameroun has documented the cases of more than 13 other men currently being detained in Cameroon under Article 347.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has declared that detention on the basis of sexual orientation in Cameroon constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of liberty contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The UN human rights body called on the government of Cameroon to adopt necessary measures to remedy the situation, including the possible repeal of Article 347.

The human rights groups Alternatives-Cameroun, Amnesty International, IGLHRC, Les Pantheres Rose, and OUT are calling for the repeal of Article 347, the release of all individuals detained under this law, and an end to official discrimination based on sexual orientation in Cameroon.