Cameroon must investigate gay rights activist killing: groups

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 19, 2013 10:38 AM
Cameroon must investigate gay rights activist killing: groups

YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Campaign groups urged Cameroon to carry out a thorough investigation into the brutal killing of a gay rights activist, the latest attack on people fighting to legalize homosexuality in the central African country.

Friends found journalist Eric Ohena Lembembe dead in his home in the capital Yaounde on Monday. His neck was broken, his feet smashed and his face burned with a clothes iron, Human Rights Watch said.

Lembembe's murder came less than two weeks after he released a statement condemning attacks by "anti-gay thugs".

The police said they had already opened an investigation.

"It is true that lesbianism, gay and bisexual behavior ... is against the penal code of our country but this does not demand that people should go as far as killing those involved," a senior police officer told Reuters. Homosexuality is illegal in many parts of Africa.

But Human Rights Watch said past investigations into similar attacks had failed to find any suspects.

"Every day we are witnessing serious human rights violations yet the authorities are not taking strong measures to combat it," said lawyer and gay rights activist Alice Nkom, who has herself received death threats.

The Cameroon Association for the Defense of Homosexuality called on the government to guarantee the safety of gay people.

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Lembembe was the executive director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS.

He also helped research a Human Rights Watch report released in March detailing systematic abuses of homosexual people and campaigners, including discriminatory treatment by officials, illegal arrests and torture.

Washington and Paris joined other world powers in expressing concern over the killing.

(Reporting by Tansa Musa; Writing by Elise Knutsen Editing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Andrew Heavens)