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Two men convicted of homosexuality under Cameroon’s anti-gay law

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A court in Cameroon on Tuesday found two men guilty under the country’s harsh law banning gay sex, a lawyer said, continuing a string of recent convictions that has drawn international condemnation.

Michel Togue said judges in Yaounde, the capital, sentenced 48-year-old Joseph Omgbwa to two years in prison and 19-year-old Nicolas Ntamack to one year. A third suspect, Seraphin Ntsama, was acquitted.

The convictions came less than two weeks after a prominent Cameroonian gay rights activist, Eric Ohena Lembembe, was tortured and killed in an attack his friends suspect was related to his activism.

Togue said he plans to appeal the convictions, which he described as baseless.

“You know, this judgment makes me very sad and angry because we didn’t have evidence to convict those guys of being homosexual,” Togue said.

He said the verdict would further devastate a community already shaken by the death of Lembembe, the most prominent African gay rights activist to be killed since 2011. “Ever since this man was murdered the community is really frightened, and I think they didn’t need this kind of verdict today,” Togue said.

Homosexuality is punishable by up to five years in prison in Cameroon, and officials have zealously pursued prosecutions under the law dating back to 2005, according to local and international human rights groups.

Human Rights Watch says the country pursues more prosecutions of sexual minorities than any other in sub-Saharan Africa. In a March report, the organization said charges had been brought against at least 28 people under the law in the last three years.

Omgbwa was arrested in August 2011 after gendarmes, tipped off by a man who said Omgbwa made sexual advances toward him, searched his house without a warrant, according to Human Rights Watch.

A court report said the gendarmes found “several objects that left no doubt about (Omgbwa’s) hom osexual activities,” including condoms and a lubricant. The other two suspects, Ntamack and Ntsama, were arrested when they went to visit Omgbwa in prison.

Omgbwa and at least one of the other suspects have said they were subjected to forced anal examinations intended to determine whether they had engaged in gay sex, a procedure rights groups say has no scientific merit and is tantamount to torture.

Neela Ghoshal, senior Human Rights Watch researcher for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders, said the case violated promises from Cameroonian officials to pursue gay suspects only if were “caught in the act.”

“It’s shameful that two more people have been convicted of consensual same-sex conduct in Cameroon,” just after the killing of Lembembe, she said. “The government continues to send the message that LGBTI people are less than human.”

On Monday, a group of Cameroonian gay rights groups said they would be forced to suspend their HIV/AIDS program ming until international partners helped them confront a worsening security situation.

“In the fight for the rights of sexual minorities in Cameroon, the long-decried climate of homophobia has intensified and now has reached a critical point,” said the statement signed by leaders of four organizations, including Lembembe’s CAMFAIDS.

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4 more reader comments:

  1. The only crime here is that they went to jail…..pray for their safety.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 8:40pm
  2. Brought to you by religion!

    Posted on Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 9:53pm
  3. brought to you by organized imposed religion. Please if you want to label it get it right.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 12:08am
  4. You can bet that NOM and and other Christofascists are behind it.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 11:15am