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Africa

Prominent gay rights activist tortured, killed in Cameroon

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

YAOUNDE, Cameroon — Eric Ohena Lembembe, a prominent LGBT rights advocate and journalist was found dead at his home in Yaoundé, Cameroon on Monday evening.

According to the Human Rights Watch Tuesday, Lembembe’s friends discovered his body at his home after being unable to contact him by telephone for two days.

76crimes.com
Eric Ohena Lembembe

They found his front door padlocked on the outside, but could see Lembembe’s body lying on his bed through the window.

They alerted Cameroonian police, who broke down the door. According to those present Lembembe’s neck and feet appeared to have been broken, and his face, hands, and feet had been burned with an iron.

“We don’t know who killed Eric Lembembe, or why he was killed, but one thing is clear: the Cameroonian authorities’ utter failure to stem homophobic violence sends the message that these attacks can be carried out with impunity,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT rights researcher at HRW.

“The police should not rest until the perpetrators of this horrific crime are brought to justice. President Biya should break his silence on the wave of homophobic violence in Cameroon and publicly condemn this brutal attack,” added Ghoshal.

Lembembe was among the most prominent activists in one of Africa’s most hostile countries for sexual minorities. Homosexuality is punishable by prison terms of up to five years in Cameroon, and the country prosecutes more people for gay sex than any other in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Human Rights Watch.

First as a journalist and later as executive director of CAMFAIDS, a Yaounde-based human rights organization, Lembembe documented violence, blackmail and arrests targeting members of Cameroon’s gay community.

He was among the first activists in the country to mobilize following a sharp increase in anti-gay prosecutions beginning in 2005, said Yves Yomb, executive director of Alternatives-Cameroon, a gay rights group based in Cameroon’s largest city, Douala. A local office of the group was set on fire June 26, Harf said in her statement.

“It is a big loss for our community, and we are a bit scared about what can happen to us,” Yomb said. “He was one of the leaders of this community. So what can happen to the other leaders?”

Lembembe was also a regular contributor to the Erasing 76 Crimes blog, which focuses on countries where homosexuality is illegal, and he wrote several chapters of a book released in February on the global gay rights movement titled “From Wrongs to Gay Rights.”

“Eric was a courageous, diligent colleague who worked hard as a reporter to expose the evils that are abroad in Cameroon, even while he worked as an activist to inform the oppressed LGBT people of that nation and to protect their rights,” Colin Stewart, author of the book “From Wrongs to Gay Rights,” and editor of “Erasing 76 Crimes,” told LGBTQ Nation on Tuesday.

“His energy, his clarity, his guiding hand and good deeds will be greatly missed,” said Stewart.

In a statement, a U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman deplored Lembembe’s murder. “We condemn this terrible act in the strongest terms and urge the Cameroonian authorities to thoroughly and promptly investigate and prosecute those responsible for his death,” Marie Harf said.

Ghoshal said that while the initial steps of an investigation appeared to be underway, it was unclear whether officials would follow through.

Lembembe’s killing follows several attacks LGBT rights advocates in Cameroon.

In June 2013, unidentified assailants torched the headquarters of Alternatives-Cameroon, which provides HIV services to LGBT people in Douala, the country’s second largest city.

In another incident last month, human rights lawyer Michel Togué, who represents clients charged with homosexuality, was robbed, and his legal files and laptop stolen.

Both Togué and Alice Nkom, another lawyer who represents LGBT clients, have reportedly received repeated death threats by email and SMS, including threats to kill their children.

Associated Press contributed to this report.
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49 more reader comments:

  1. Disgusting heartless pricks.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:19pm
  2. It´s a terrible loss to the people of Cameroon. His life´s work could have saved thousands of other lives.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:21pm
  3. dreadful

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:22pm
  4. so sad…….

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:22pm
  5. :((

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:22pm
  6. wow

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:23pm
  7. Omg :(

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:24pm
  8. So sad and shocking this 2013 people!!! :(

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:25pm
  9. damn

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:26pm
  10. This is sad and terrible!!

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:27pm
  11. :(

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:31pm
  12. Worse part is people like it <_>

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:39pm
  13. Where are Christian in all these counties and ours? Why aren´t we crying out in horror?

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:41pm
  14. so sad….:(

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:52pm
  15. Why are there no protests for this brave man?

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:58pm
  16. So sad.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 3:00pm
  17. we love you eric! god be w you !

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 3:09pm
  18. Horrible!

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 3:10pm
  19. RIP. The guy was a brave man! It´s sad he had to go this way.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 3:13pm
  20. Poor guy.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 3:15pm
  21. Rest in peace. I´m so sorry this happened to you. Thank you for what you did in this world.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 3:16pm
  22. We need to cut all ties with Cameroon , NOW!

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 3:19pm
  23. His efforts were in vain. Thank you for all you did. The World now knows you have huge heart.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 3:43pm
  24. very sad

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 4:02pm
  25. This is totally horrifying, shameful and sad.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 4:21pm
  26. Horrific. So sad.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 6:44pm
  27. Omfg

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 1:49am
  28. Justice will be swift

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 1:51am
  29. Why are there 15 people that like this post? This was a heinous crime! Hopefully HRC will step in!

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 1:53am
  30. My heart goes out this man

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 1:58am
  31. Oh, no!

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 2:12am
  32. *sharing to my page so I can read it again later. So very sad

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 2:18am
  33. Alyha, people like posts to follow them, not necessarily because they like the content..

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 2:26am
  34. Oh no. :( My heart goes out to him and to his family.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 2:34am
  35. Thank you Sharon. I do understand what you are saying. Just an extremely horrible killing. Unfortunately a very dear friend in WV was also tortured to death for being gay several years ago.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 2:40am
  36. Another hate crime – by closet gays. STOP THE HATE ! It will NOT solve anything.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 2:50am
  37. I hope his soul is at rest and to those who did this to him….. i wish you a most unfortunate and painful death. Worse then the one you submitted Mr. Ohena to.

    My heart goes out to his family and friends.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 2:51am
  38. RIP my friend. Thanks for all you did for the LGBTQ community. See you in the after life.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 2:59am
  39. I wonder if Bebe Zahara Benet knows about this?

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 3:02am
  40. RIP. May your work come to fruition.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 3:10am
  41. Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 3:19am
  42. RIP

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 3:53am
  43. another HERO gone before….how sad that he had to die at the hand of hate!

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 4:00am
  44. … ARRESTS?!?

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 4:02am
  45. Heartbreaking :(

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 5:00am
  46. R.I.P.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 1:09pm
  47. Fuking primitives.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 1:21pm
  48. Terrible, still so much work to be done in some places.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 3:34pm
  49. ;3; fuck no…

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 6:36pm