Prisoner of Conscience, Imprisoned for Homosexuality
UPDATE: On 17 December, the Court of Appeal in Yaounde upheld the three year prison term against Jean-Claude Roger Mbede. Two days before his sentence was upheld, four unknown men assaulted Mbede outside Yaounde University campus, where he had resumed his studies after he was granted provisional release. His lawyers are planning to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal. In the meantime, Mbede has gone into hiding fearing his rearrest to complete his three year prison sentence.
Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was sentenced to 36 months in prison for homosexuality, a criminal offense under Section 347a of the Cameroonian Penal Code.
The Code states that "Whoever has sexual relations with a person of the same sex shall be punished with imprisonment from six months to five years and with a fine ranging from 20,000 Francs CFA to 200,000 Francs CFA" (approximately 35 to 350 US dollars). This contravenes a number of international and regional human rights treaties, including Cameroon’s obligations under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.
Jean-Claude Roger Mbede is currently serving his sentence at Kondengui central prison in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. He is at risk of physical attack and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment on account of his real or perceived sexual orientation. Amnesty International considers Jean-Claude Roger Mbede to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely because of his perceived sexual orientation.
On March 2, 2011 Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was arrested by members of the Secretary of State for Defense (SED) security service while meeting a male acquaintance. He was taken into custody on suspicion of homosexuality at the Gendarmerie du Lac detention center in Yaoundé and was held there for seven days before being charged with homosexuality and attempted homosexuality and transferred to Kondengui Central Prison on March 9.
.On 16 July 2012, Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was granted provisional release by the court of appeal of Yaoundé. The following day, he was released from Kondengui Central prison on bail. However, on 17 December, the Court of Appeal in Yaounde upheld the three year prison term against Jean-Claude Roger Mbede.
Homophobia is endemic in Cameroonian society and even the National Human Rights Commission refuses to recognize and defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Arrests, prosecutions and trials of gay men, or those perceived as such, occur on a regular basis. Prisons and other detention centers in Cameroon are also often overcrowded and conditions are often life-threatening. Medical care and food is often not provided or is inadequate and prison guards are poorly trained, ill-equipped and their numbers inadequate for a large prison population.