A group of men arrested on suspicion of homosexuality in Cameroon say police allegedly ‘brutalized’ them while in custody.
Police raided a well known gay bar and cinema in the capital, Yaoundé in the early hours of Friday (11 May) where they arrested the 25 men.
Along with homosexuality, police arrested the men for failing to carry national ID cards and drug possession.
Cameroon outlaws gay sex under Article 347-1 of the Penal Code. People convicted of homosexuality face jail terms of up to five years.
Police released two of the men shortly after their detention. The remaining 23 remained in police custody until Sunday.
According to Rights Africa the police were undercover pretending to be normal patrons. They tried to force open the door after management told them the bar had closed for the night.
‘We informed them that the tavern was already closed, but they forced the door open. Then they took us [to jail] without any reason,’ one of the arrested men said.
As soon as the arrests became known LGBTI lawyers, activists and human rights advocates descended on the Central Police Station to try and free the men.
Police Commander Parfait Nana told media that he did not have a problem with anyone’s sexuality, but he had a job to do.
‘Among the 25 people held in custody, two who were witnesses at the scenes were released after a hearing. The remaining 23 will be interrogated; conclusions will be reached at the close of the investigations’ he said.
‘Personally, I do not judge anyone and do not condemn anyone on the basis of their sexual orientation. However, Cameroon has laws to enforce.’
Parents worried about their children also went to the police station where officers there told them that their children ‘deserve their fate’.
Those arrested complained they did not get food or water during their detention.
‘We were interrogated several times. Despite threats by the police, we kept our cool. We were brutalized and then we were released,’ said one of the men arrested.
The men’s arrests comes just a week after five LGBTI activists from a HIV organization were released from police custody and managed to avoid anal exams to determine their homosexuality.