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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 19, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 29
Cameroon Gay activist found murdered - U.S. officials condemn torture and killing of Eric Lembembe
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Cameroon Gay activist found murdered - U.S. officials condemn torture and killing of Eric Lembembe

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The U.S. State Department has condemned the murder of Cameroon Gay rights activist and journalist Eric Lembembe, who was found dead on July 15. According to friends, he had been missing for two days.

Human Rights Watch reported that Lembembe had been tortured. His neck and bones in his feet were broken, the group said, and his feet had been burned with an iron.

The State Department issued its statement on the murder on July 16.

'We deplore the brutal murder of Eric Ohena Lembembe, who was found tortured to death in his home in Yaoundé yesterday,' the statement said. '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.

OUTSPOKEN ADVOCATE
'Eric Ohena Lembembe was the executive director of Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), an organization dedicated to the fight against AIDS and for the human rights of LGBT people in Cameroon. Just two weeks ago, Mr. Lembembe spoke out against the recent break-ins at the offices of groups advocating for Gay rights. The local office of one organization, Alternatives-Cameroun, was set on fire on June 26th.

'The United States actively promotes respect for the human rights of all people, including LGBT individuals, in Cameroon and around the world. We will continue to support activists like Mr. Lembembe who stand up for the human rights of all people, regardless of who they are or who they love.'

Human Rights Watch demanded that the Cameroon government protect its LGBT citizens.

'The police should not rest until the perpetrators of this horrific crime are brought to justice. President [Paul] Biya should break his silence on the wave of homophobic violence in Cameroon and publicly condemn this brutal attack,' Human Rights Watch researcher Neela Ghoshal said in a statement.

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Cameroon, with penalties of up to five years in prison.

A PATTERN OF VIOLENCE
According to Human Rights Watch, the murder of Lembembe is just the most recent attack on the country's LGBT population. The group said that other incidents include:

o The headquarters of Alternatives-Cameroun, a nongovernmental organization which provides HIV services, was burned down on 26 June in the commercial capital, Douala.

o The Yaoundé office of human rights lawyer Michel Togue, who represents clients charged with same-sex conduct, was burgled and his legal files and laptop stolen.

o Togue and Alice Nkom, another lawyer who represents Gay and Lesbian people, have received repeated death threats by e-mail and text, including threats to kill their children. Cameroonian police have not apprehended a single suspect, although activists have reported all the incidents, HRW said.

o In December, a Cameroon appeals court upheld the sentencing to 36 months in prison of Roger Jean-Claude Mbede under anti-Gay legislation. His lawyer said he was sentenced simply for sending a text to someone to say he loved him.

Both the U.S. and the European Union have threatened to cut off aid to countries that fail to repeal anti-LGBT laws.

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