Cameroon: reprisals of human rights defenders and discrimination of LGBTI persons voiced as key concerns

Review of Cameroon | HR Committee | Oct. 2017

Demonstrators march during a protest against perceived discrimination in favour of the country’s francophone majority on September 22, 2017, in Bamenda, the main town in northwest Cameroon and an anglophone hub. Photo credit: the Guardian

The fifth periodic report of Cameroon was reviewed by the Human Rights Committee on 24 and 25 October 2017. Key concerns were the Anglophone crisis, the discrimination against LGBTI persons and threats and reprisals against Human Rights Defenders and journalists. Other concerns were the high number of death penalty sentences pronounced, discrimination against women and instances of torture and ill-treatment.

The webcast is available here : part 1 and part 2

"During this dialogue, we have heard from representatives of NGOs that defend human rights (…). They fear that they will be subject to reprisals upon their return to Cameroon. Can you give us a guarantee, can you reassure the Committee that these people will not suffer reprisals upon their return?"

- Mr. Ben Achour, member of the Human Rights Committee

Anglophone crisis

In 2016, English-speaking lawyers were protesting to demand respect for their linguistic rights. The police reacted with violence and beatings. The protests expanded and teachers and students joined to denounce discrimination of Anglophone Cameroonians in employment. So far, 100 persons have been killed by law enforcement, 500 are detained and 50 went missing. Some of them are charged with terrorism. These events, referred to as the Anglophone crisis, was a major concern of the Human Rights Committee.

The delegation referred to this issue as acts of vandalism and violence that were registered in November and December 2016. The official number of deaths is 17. Among these deaths are also people who suffocated and people who tried to escape, for which the state is not responsible, according to the delegation. 

Reprisals to human rights defenders

The Committee was very concerned about the intimidation of human rights defenders and journalists in Cameroon. The minister of communication declared that human rights defenders are destabilizing the country and that they are not welcome. There are reports of ill-treatment of editors and prohibitions for NGOs to hold a press conference. These are serious restrictions to the freedom of expression. The Committee asked for guarantees from the government that no reprisals will be taken against the NGOs who participated in the dialogue, upon their return to Cameroon. 

Discrimination of LGBTI persons

Consensual same sex relations are criminalized in Cameroon. The Committee asked whether there were any plans to amend this provision of the Penal Code. It also asked for statistics on the number of cases and for guarantees regarding detention of LGBTI persons since there are reports that they are detained for long periods of time, sometimes without seeing a judge. In these detention conditions, they are very vulnerable since the society has strong opinions against homosexuality. The Committee also asked to include in the penal code hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation since LGBTI persons are extremely vulnerable in this regard.

The delegation replied that the provision in the Penal Code that criminalizes homosexuality will not be revised. Homosexuality is contrary to the Cameroonian culture and morality.

Recommendations of the Committee

Within two years, the State party should provide information on certain recommendations from the Committee’s Concluding Observations. Click here for more details on the follow-up recommendations in French.

The next periodic report is due on 10 November 2022. 

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