Upsurge in LGBTI persecution and abuse; journalist sentenced to 23 months in prison
#Cameroon: Wave of arrests, abuse against #LGBT people🌈.— ilaria allegrozzi (@ilariallegro) April 14, 2021
“The law criminalizing same-sex conduct puts LGBT people at a heightened risk of being mistreated, tortured, and assaulted without any consequences for the abusers.” @NeelaGhoshal
New @hrw report 👇https://t.co/3FesRqU8kM pic.twitter.com/IZUZXUTFgt
Upsurge in LGBTI persecution
On 11th May 2021, two transgender women were sentenced to a prison sentence of five years and a fine of 200,000 francs CFA (371 USD) for 'attempting homosexuality', 'public indecency' and 'non-possession of ID card'. The two women - social media figure Shakiro Njeukam and Patricia Mouthe - were arrested in February 2021 in Douala and were targeted for having worn female clothing. The two women were reportedly interrogated without the presence of a lawyer, beaten, threatened and faced with anti-LGBTI epithets.
This is the latest incident in a wave of arrests, persecution and abuse of LGBTI people in the country: according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), at least 24 people have been subjected to arrest, beatings and threats by security forces for alleged same-sex conduct or gender non-conformity since February 2021. The Criminal Code criminalises same-sex relations, which carries a prison sentence of up to five years. Neela Ghoshal of HRW commented:
"These recent arrests and abuses raise serious concerns about a new upsurge in anti-LGBT persecution in Cameroon. The law criminalising same-sex conduct puts LGBT people at a heightened risk of being mistreated, tortured and assaulted without any consequences for the abusers.”
On 24th February 2021, security forces arrested 13 people on charges of homosexuality after raiding the offices of Colibri in Bafoussam, an organisation that provides HIV prevention and treatment services. Seven of those arrested were staff members of the non-profit. They were released a few days later, on 26th and 27th February 2021.
Human rights lawyer arrested
On 31st May 2021, gendarmes arrested human rights lawyer Amungwa Tanyi Nicodemus on charges of inciting terrorism while he was assisting a client at the Groupement Territorial de la Gendarmerie in Yaoundé, according to HRW. Nicodemus' lawyers told HRW that the lawyer's phone was confiscated without a warrant after he complained that the criminal procedure was violated in the case of his client, with gendarmes claiming that Nicodemus took pictures of the gendarmerie. Officers reportedly arrested him after they found pictures of human rights abuses by the military in the Anglophone regions. Bail was denied.
Amungwa Tanyi Nicodemus is one of the lawyers of Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe, the leader of the separatist group Ambazonia Interim Government and represents other people who were arrested in relation to the Anglophone crisis.
.@pressfreedom is relieved that after almost 2 years in arbitrary detention in #Cameroon, Paul Chouta was finally freed this morning. We are pleased he can finally return to his family & friends and that he will appeal his unjust conviction & sentence, including a heavy fine. pic.twitter.com/g5DDbYSGVR— CPJ Africa (@CPJAfrica) May 20, 2021
Journalist sentenced to 23 months in prison
On 18th May 2021, the Yaoundé Court of First Instance sentenced journalist Paul Chouta to a prison term of 23 months, a fine of 160,000 francs CFA (297 USD) and two million francs CFA (3,715 USD) in damages. His case was postponed 27 times and Chouta was held in pre-trial detention for 24 months. As reported previously on the Monitor, police officers arrested Paul Chouta on 28th May 2019 in Yaoundé following a defamation complaint by Calixthe Beyala, a French-Cameroonian writer. Chouta, who works for the online news outlet CameroonWeb, was charged with defamation, spreading false news, and hate speech on 10th June 2019. While the charge of hate speech was dropped the following day, he was denied bail. Reporters without Borders (RSF) commented:
“Not only has Paul Chouta had to face court proceedings and a long period of detention, but he must now pay an exorbitant sum to be able finally to leave prison. The verdict is the culmination of a farcical case. There is no justification for such a long detention and final verdict unless it is an attempt to silence a troublesome voice."