Court denies bail, as Cameroon Police Attempt to coerce Lesbian confession and over hundred of these cases pend trial after years languishing in jails
By Melanie Nathan, April 26, 2014.
Two women have been beaten and arrested in Cameroon and are facing years in prison for allegedly engaging in sexual relations together in the privacy of a home. The women, identified as Viamie, aged 22 and Emanuella, 24 belong to a football team known as The Young Indomitable Lionesses, coached byNgoh.
We have been informed that the women have “been suspected of this act for a long time due to their close relationship, displayed during their participation on the football team,” according to a source.
Apparently female soccer teams in Cameroon have been under investigation for a long time as authorities seek to identify team members who are perceived as lesbians. Suspected lesbians are then targeted for surveillance. The women are often followed and so called “intelligence” is gathered by police, members of the community, and sometimes even team members.
In this instance we have been informed that the 2 women were followed to a home after a soccer training session by police under instruction of the local police Commissioner, Billong Solange Aba. They were followed to to a room at the Malingo residential area in Buea, where it is alleged they were “seen bathing and making love together.”
The women were at home when they received a knock at the door. They opened the door and the police arrested them. It is alleged that they were beaten by the police and taken to the Buea Central Prison where they await trial. Apparently Commissioner Billong Solange Aba knew about the beatings and may have been involved in instructing police to beat the women.
I tried to contact the Commissioner for comment, but were unable to get through.
I contacted the attorney Scolastica, who is representing the women. She asked me not to use last last names. She informed me that the young women had bright futures ahead of them and she fears that they will languish in prison for along time. She said the facts are confusing and she does not think that the State will prove its case, however she is worried that the women may be coerced into giving untrue confessions.
She informed me that there are cases like this coming to the court every week. She said she knows of about 100 to 150 people languishing in jail. Many do not know why they are there and have not been given trials, even after waiting in prison for over 2 years, in some cases. She said the people of Cameroon are being cruelly treated by the judicial system. “These two women are very young and should not be treated like criminals, they are crying for help.”
Apparently the women have been denied bail, as a mechanism to force them into a quick confession, on the pretext that they can avoid a delayed trial which could result in their lengthier incarceration or assume a charge under the Penal Code with less prison time.
This clearly places undue pressure on the women to enter into a so called ‘confession’. If they do not plead guilty the state will have to prove its case, and the women may have a right of appeal, but it could take a very long time as the Buea Court of First Instance is notorious for delaying trials.
If one of the young women confesses and takes the rap, absolving the other, she could get two years under Article 295, for so called “private indecency” – which includes the privacy of one’s own home, where there is a non-consenting party. If one of the women does not confess under that article, then the two could be tried and if found guilty under Article 347, the homosexuality clause, they risk both getting five years. This places undue pressure on the parties.
The women are due to appear in Court again on Monday morning April 28, at Buea Court of the First Instance.
As a matter of interest Cameroon Courts have been dubbed as one of the most corrupt in the world. The anti-gay sentiment in Cameroon is at an all time height and one wonders if this woman will continue to be abused by Cameroon’s judicial system.
The case has been remanded to May 12 – attorneys are seeking to file an appeal petition for bail for the 2 women. Emmanuela is very sick and not getting the medical attention she requires. The jail conditions are very poor, with uncomfortable, dirty cramped cell and food only bread and water. The fear is the women may be further tortured in an attempt to get them to admit to a crime.
Penal Code of 1965 and 1967, as Amended in 1972
a. Article 295 Private Indecency (1) Shall be punished by imprisonment of fifteen days to two years and a fine of 10,000 to 100,000 francs, or by only one of these two sentences, any person who, even in a private space, commits an act of indecency in the presence of a non-consenting person of one sex or the other.
b. Article 346 Indecency to Child/Minor Under 16 (1) Shall be punished by imprisonment of two to five years and a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 francs, any person who commits an act of indecency in the presence of a minor under sixteen. (2) Sentences are doubled if the indecency is committed with violence or if the offender is one of the persons referred to in Article 298* (3) The sentence is a term of imprisonment of ten to fifteen years’ imprisonment if the offender had sexual intercourse, even with the consent of the victim. (4) In case of rape, the term of imprisonment ranges from fifteen to twenty-five years. Life imprisonment applies if the offender is one of the persons referred to in Article 298.
c. Article 347 – Indecent act against a minor from 16 to 21) (1 In the case of the offenses referred to in Articles 295, 296 and 347 bis were committed against a minor person aged between sixteen and twenty-one years old, the penalties provided in the above-mentioned articles shall be doubled. (…)
d. Article 347 (a) – Homosexuality Shall be punished by imprisonment of six months to five years and a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 francs (CFA) any person who has sex with a person of their sex.
Source: http://iglhrc.org/content/cameroon via Cameroonian Penal Code as amended in 1972 in French. Translation by Floriane Levebre.
This is what the U.S. State Department Travel Page says about LGBT lack of rights in Cameroon:
LGBT Rights: Cameroon’s penal code punishes sexual relations between people of the same gender with jail terms of up to five years, and the Government of Cameroon actively prosecutes and convicts individuals under this code. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community are advised to maintain a low profile to avoid harassment, discrimination, and possible detention. Allegations of brutality, illegal searches and seizures, and coerced confessions have been made against law enforcement officials investigating such cases. There are also reports of vigilante groups committing violent acts against suspected LGBT individuals. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender travel, please read our LGBT Travel Information page.
Buea is a small town at the foot of Mount Cameroon, which is the second highest in Africa and the highest in West Africa.
By Melanie Nathan,
We are sending this article to the following Parties, expressing concern about the case:-
Concern about the outdated and Draconian Penal Code as well as the nature of the arrests, the refusal of bail and the beatings of the 2 women.
• Mr. Paul Biya, President of the Republic, Presidency of the Republic, Palais de l’Unité, 1000 Yaoundé, Cameroon, Fax +237 22 22 08 70
• Mr. Philémon Yang, Prime Minister and Chief of Government, Primature du Cameroun, 1000 Yaoundé‚ Cameroon. Fax: +237 22 23 57 35. Email: [email protected]
• Mr. Laurent Esso, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, 1000 Yaoundé‚ Cameroon, Fax: + 237 22 23 00 05
• Mr. René Emmanuel SADI, Minister of Territorial Administration, Fax: + 237 22 22 37 35
• Dr. Chemuta Divine Banda, President of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, Fax: +237 22 22 60 82, E-mail: [email protected] / [email protected]
• Ms. Enonchong Annet, Protection Officer of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, Email: [email protected]
• H.E. Jean Simplice Ndjemba Endezoumou, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cameroon to the United Nations Office in Geneva, rue du Nant 6, 1207 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 736 21 65, Email: [email protected]
• Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon in Brussels, 131 av. Brugmann, 1190 Forest, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 344 57 35; Email: [email protected]
Read more about the persecution of LGBTI Cameroonians :
Roger Mbede was unjustly sent to prison on March 9, 2011 after he was convicted and sentenced to three years in jail under Section 347a of the Cameroonian Penal Code. His crime? He sent a text to another man saying, “I am very much in love with you.” Mbede spent 16 months in prison before being released on July 16, 2012 for health reasons. Since that time he and members of his legal team received repeated death threats. READ MORE.
Eric Ohena Lembembe, a friend and a leader of the Cameroonian LGBTI movement, was found dead in his home in Yaoundé on July 15th with signs of torture to his body. Though the Cameroonian LGBTI movement remains strong, the death of Eric, who was a journalist and the executive director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), is a tragic loss. Read More