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Rights groups demand end to Cameroon homosexual persecution

Five human rights groups sent a letter Monday to Cameroon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] President Paul Biya, urging him to end persecution against gays and lesbians [press release] and repeal laws that criminalize homosexual conduct [UNHCR backgrounder]. The groups, Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, L'Association pour la Defense des Droits des Homosexuel(le)s and Alternatives Cameroun [advocacy websites], demanded the end of detentions, torture, arrests and harassment based on citizens' perceived gender identity and sexual orientation. The letter follows earlier requests to decriminalize [JURIST report] the same-sex laws in accordance with recommendations [report, DOC] issued by the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) [official website], which expressed concern that the laws impede the effectiveness of HIV and AIDS prevention programs.

According to a 2009 AI report [text, PDF; abstract], the Cameroon government participated in and encouraged unlawful executions, torture and other human rights violations [JURIST report]. The report alleges that such violations have been taking place for more than 10 years and may increase with the current global economic crisis and continued political unrest. According to the report, the actions by many governmental officials violate national law as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text]. The ICCPR guarantees the right of equal treatment and the right of equal protection under the law, without discrimination. In 1994, the UNHRC held in Toonen v. Australia [case materials] that sexual orientation is included in the protections against discrimination in the ICCPR.

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