Amnesty report cites abuse of criminal justice in Cameroon

A new report by Amnesty claims the Cameroon authorities have engaged in unlawful killings and torture as the authorities seek to use the criminal justice system to clamp down on political opponents, human rights defenders, journalists and sexual minorities.

Amnesty International documents a series of cases where intimidation and imprisonment have been used to clamp down on political opposition to President Paul Biya.  The Amnesty Report also says human rights defenders and members of their families are harassed and threatened for doing their work. 

Over the years dozens of prisoners attempting to escape have been shot, injured or killed by prison guards. Numerous prisoners are held in shackles and many have been detained for more than 20 months with no trial.

Amnesty International delegates visited Yaoundé's Kondengui and Douala's New Bell prisons and were appalled by the conditions and ill-treatment. At the time of their latest visit in December 2012, there were more than 7,000 prisoners in the two prisons with a shared capacity of 1,500.

"It's close to a miracle that people actually survive their stay in prison. I was frightened when I visited. How much worse can it be for the thousands of detainees who are abused and forgotten or ignored by the authorities?" says Godfrey Byaruhanga, Amnesty International's central Africa researcher who has recently returned from the country.

Inmates in Kondengui prison only eat one meal a day and malnutrition is rife. Prison authorities informed Amnesty International that most of the detainees in one wing are mentally ill and researchers saw male inmates who were completely naked amidst a crowd of fellow prisoners.

Engaging in same-sex relationships is a criminal offence in Cameroon and authorities routinely arrest, detain and torture individuals because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.

The report says such individuals accused of such offences are forced to undergo anal examinations in a mistaken belief by the authorities that the examinations can prove whether or not people are engaging in same-sex relations. "There is no justification whatsoever for this illegal, degrading treatment. It represents a severe breach of medical ethics and has to end immediately," says Byaruhanga.

Defence lawyers for LGBTI people have recently received death threats against themselves and their children for defending homosexuals.




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