Gay Rights Activist Killed in Cameroon
Prominent gay rights activist Eric Ohena Lembembe was found tortured and killed at his home in Cameroon, reports the Associated Press.
His body was discovered by friends who say both his neck and feet appeared to be broken and he had been burned with an iron.
As a journalist and the executive director of the human rights organization CAMFAIDS, Lembembe was a well-known activist fighting for the rights of sexual minorities in Africa.
Despite the fact that homosexuality punishable by a 5-year prison sentence in Cameroon, Lembembe still regularly contributed to the blog Erasing 76 Crimes, which raises awareness of LGBT issues in countries where homosexuality is illegal. He also documented arrests, blackmail and violence against members of Cameroon’s LGBT community and wrote several chapters of the book, From Wrongs to Gay Rights, which focused on the global gay rights movement.
"Eric was an inspiring activist whose work was deeply appreciated by human rights activists in Cameroon and around the world," said Human Rights Watch senior LGBT rights researcher Neela Ghoshal.
After antigay prosecutions began to dramatically increase in Cameroon, Lembembe was one of the first to mobilize in 2005.
"It is a big loss for our community, and we are a bit scared about what can happen to us," said Yves Yomb, executive director of Alternatives-Cameroon. "He was one of the leaders of this community. So what can happen to the other leaders?"
Though the motive for Lembembe’s apparent murder is unclear at this time, it is widely speculated that he was targeted because of his sexuality.
Police have begun an investigation, but Ghoshal is doubtful those who killed Lembembe will be brought to justice. "What worries us is that in the previous incidents of homophobic threats or violence, the police have done the basics but it's never gone beyond taking statements," she said. "It remains to be seen whether the police will carry out a serious investigation into this matter."