Amnesty International is calling attention to the story of Jean-Claude Roger Mbede of Cameroon who in recent months was arrested and sentenced to prison for being gay. He must now serve three years incarceration for homosexuality and attempted homosexuality in Kondengui central prison where, Amnesty International warns, he will face the constant threat of homophobic attacks.
From the Amnesty International press release:
On 2 March Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was arrested by members of the Secretary of State for Defence (SED) security service while meeting a male acquaintance. Prior to the meeting, his acquaintance had showed to the police text messages he had received from Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, and informed them they were due to meet. 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.
Jean-Claude Roger Mbede appeared before a court (Tribunal de première instance) in Yaoundé on 10 and 24 March. On 28 April the court found him 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. In addition,the prison conditions in Kondengui are harsh, with inmates suffering overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate food. An appeal against the sentence was made by his lawyers on 3 May.
Section 347a of the Cameroonian Penal Code punishes “sexual relations with a person of the same sex” with six months to five years imprisonment and a fine of between 20,000 Francs CFA (around $35) to 200,000 Francs CFA (around $350).
According to Amnesty International, this “contravenes the international and regional human rights treaties (including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights) which Cameroon has signed and ratified.”
More from the Amnesty International blog:
“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.
Sadly, Jean-Claude’s story is one among many. Cameroon actively persecutes gay citizens with frequent arrests, intimidation and a lack of basic protections from violence.
As such, Amnesty International is calling on Cameroon to free Jean-Claude and to also decriminalize homosexuality.