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Justice demanded for slain rights campaigner

Fri 19 Jul 2013 In: International News

Eric Ohena Lembembe Human Rights Watch and the United Nations have condemned the killing of a prominent GLBTI rights and HIV awareness activist in Cameroon, and are urging authorities to bring whoever is responsible to justice. The body of Eric Ohena Lembembe was discovered in his home in the capital Yaoundé on Monday night, by friends who had been unable to reach him for several days. Witnesses told civil rights organisation Human Rights Watch that they could see his body lying on the bed through the window. When the police arrived and broke down the door, they found his feet broken, and his face, hands and feet burned. Human Rights Watch is concerned authorities may not take action to bring the perpetrators to justice. "The friends who found Lembembe's body have made a statement to the police, but at this point it's hard to tell whether the police are really investigating," Neela Ghoshal from Human Rights Watch says. Lembembe was an outspoken activist for the rights GLBTI people, as a journalist and as Executive Director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS. In his last blog post before he died, Lembembe described attacks on gay and lesbian groups, and criticised the lack of action by the authorities to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators. “Eric was an inspiring activist whose work was deeply appreciated by human rights activists in Cameroon and around the world,” Ghoshal says. “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 non-discrimination. “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. “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.” The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has issued a statement condemning the killing and asking the Cameroonian Government to pursue a thorough investigation. “UNAIDS remains gravely concerned about numerous reports of violence and death threats against LGBTI people in Cameroon. UNAIDS urges the Government to send a clear message that violence, homophobic and discriminatory acts will not be tolerated,” the statement says. “It is unacceptable that in many countries people are subject to violence or the threat of violence because of their sexual orientation or perceived HIV status. Respect for human rights is essential in ensuring that all people have access to HIV services.” UNAIDS says Lembembe was an important partner in the AIDS response. It is sending sincere condolences to his family and friends.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Friday, 19th July 2013 - 9:33am

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