Eric Ohena Lembembe, a prominent LGBT activist and journalist in Cameroon, was found dead in his home on Monday, according to Human Rights Watch.
Friends became suspicious after being unable to reach him by telephone for several days. When they visited his home in the capital of Yaoundé, they found his front door padlocked but could see his body through a window. They called police, who knocked down the front door.
One friend said Lembembe’s neck and feet looked broken and that he had been burned on the face, hands, and feet with a hot iron.
“Eric was an inspiring activist whose work was deeply appreciated by human rights activists in Cameroon and around the world,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT rights researcher. “Advocating for equal rights in Cameroon, where LGBTI people face severe discrimination and violence, takes tremendous courage. Eric’s activism paved the way for a society based on equality and nondiscrimination.”
Same-sex sexual conduct is illegal in Cameroon and dozens of people have been arrested merely for being denounced as homosexuals, according to Amnesty International.
“Detainees are reported to have been beaten, subjected to anal examinations by medical doctors without consent and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and held in solitary confinement. Some individuals accused of same-sex sexual conduct have been imprisoned for up to three years without charge or trial,” an Amnesty report released in June stated.
Human Rights Watch said those working on behalf of LGBT individuals in Cameroon have faced attacks and acts of vandalism, but police have been unwilling to investigate the crimes.
“We don’t know who killed Eric Lembembe, or why he was killed, but one thing is clear: the Cameroonian authorities’ utter failure to stem homophobic violence sends the message that these attacks can be carried out with impunity,” Ghoshal said. “The police should not rest until the perpetrators of this horrific crime are brought to justice. President Biya should break his silence on the wave of homophobic violence in Cameroon and publicly condemn this brutal attack.”