Cameroon: Murderers of Gay Rights Activist in Cameroon Must Be Held Accountable, Says UN Rights Office

The United Nations human rights office today said it has requested authorities in Cameroon to properly investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the death of gay activist and journalist Eric Lembembe.

"Our office in Cameroon has approached the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms and requested that the Commission takes necessary steps to ensure that the case is properly investigated by the police so that Mr. Lembembe's murderers are brought to justice," the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, told journalists in Geneva.

Mr. Lembembe was reportedly found dead in his apartment in the capital of Yaoundé on 15 July, soon after he wrote about attacks in the country on organizations that support homosexuals. According to OHCHR, his body reportedly showed evidence of physical mistreatment possibly amounting to torture.

The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) decried the killing yesterday, calling Mr. Lembembe, the Executive Director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS, "an important partner in the AIDS response."

The UN agency also called on the Cameroonian Government to thoroughly investigate the death.

"This case is taking place amid a general climate of fear amongst Cameroonian human rights defenders," Mr. Colville said, adding that some activists have received death threats by phone or email for defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

In June, Human Rights Watch and three local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) launched a report on human rights violations linked to arbitrary arrests and detentions on the grounds of homosexuality in Cameroon.

On a visit to the country earlier this month, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay highlighted the need to ensure human rights for all and to respect the principles of non-discrimination, including for people belonging to sexual minorities.

Ms. Pillay had told journalists in Yaoundé that Cameroon has ratified six key human rights treaties, giving it a strong framework to guide the development and amendment of national laws and policies relating to human rights, but needs to implement them.

The Universal Periodic Review conducted in May by the UN Human Rights Council - which subjects each country's human rights record to a State-led peer review - highlighted a number of concerns such as violence against women, harassment of journalists, criminalization of homosexuality, and the vulnerability of indigenous peoples.

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