Africa

Cameroon police entrap gay men to extort bribes

By Erin Royal Brokovitch

In 2014, Cameroon was ranked by Transparency International as among the world's worst in terms of corruption -- the 136th out of 174 countries. (Photo courtesy of Cameroun24.net)

In 2014, Cameroon was ranked by Transparency International as among the world’s worst in terms of corruption — the 136th out of 174 countries. (Photo courtesy of Cameroun24.net)

The prospect of getting a bribe is a strong motivation for Cameroon police and prosecutors in their dealings with men who are suspected of being gay.

That was demonstrated in a recent case involving a 21-year-old university student known as C., who was lured to a meeting with a police informer, arrested, subjected to an anal exam, then urged to pay a bribe in exchange for his release.

In the process, police acted as though homosexuality is against the law in Cameroon, which it is not. Only homosexual relations are outlawed, not the fact of being attracted to people of the same sex. But the police never accused C. of having illegal same-sex relations.

C.’s problems began in November after police arrested another young man, A.H., age 22, who, like C., is a student at the University of Yaounde I. Police seized A.H.’s telephone and began using his contacts to seek other people to accuse of homosexuality. The case of A.H. was described in the article “Accuser relents, but police won’t free alleged gay man” in this blog.

On Nov. 17, A.H. fell into a trap laid for him by a correspondent on Facebook. He was taken into custody at the Ekounou (14th district) police station, where he was accused of sexual harassment.

Cameroon's National Anti-Corruption Commission is ineffective, the anti-corruption international watchdog group Global Integrity said in a 2009 report. (Photo courtesy of Bonaberi.com)

Cameroon’s National Anti-Corruption Commission is ineffective, the anti-corruption international watchdog group Global Integrity said in a 2009 report. (Photo courtesy of Bonaberi.com)

Starting as soon as he was arrested on Nov. 17 and until he was released on Nov. 20, police combed through his messages and contact list in hopes of entrapping other people.

Between Nov. 17 and 19, relatives of A.H. began receiving strange calls from people they did not know who insisted on meeting with them.

C. was one who fell into the trap.

On Nov. 18, he received a call from someone who told C. he wanted to meet him. This unknown person kept sending C. messages, asking him to meet.

Finally, C. agreed.

In the late afternoon of Nov. 18, he went to the location for his rendezvous with this mysterious friend. It was in Biyem-Assi, near C.’s home and several kilometers away from the Ekounou area.

When he reached that location, police from Ekounou parked a car in front of him, forced him to get in, and drove him to the Ekounou police station.

There, they told him that if he admitted he is gay, he would be released. Naively, he did. Police did not do what they had promised. Instead, C. was kept in custody along with A.H., with both of them facing homosexuality charges.

On Nov. 19, both men were taken to the Nkomo district’s medical center, where they were subjected to anal examinations — an inhumane and degrading process that police mistakenly believe can determine whether a person is a homosexual.

Back at the police station, A.H. and C. were chained to the floor. Police accused them of being a homosexual couple. Each man swore that until that day he had never before seen the other.

Michel Togue (Photo by Eric O. Lembembe)

Michel Togué (Photo by Éric O. Lembembe)

Michel Togué, who is apparently the only lawyer in Yaoundé who will defend LGBTI clients, appealed to the Ekounou district prosecutor to have the men released. The prosecutor asked the Ekounou police captain to unchain the prisoners and send their files to him.

The captain did no such thing.

Instead, he added accusations to the files, which is a classic maneuver by Cameroonian police who want to extend the detention of an arrestee while seeking money from them or from their families.

However, Humanity First, a local group that works for LGBTI rights and against AIDS, had urged A.H.’s family not to give in to police extortion.

The police investigator and the captain hinted to A.H.’s mother that money could bring about his release, but she dodged the issue. She had no money she could pay them, because a few months earlier she had paid 50,000 CFA francs (about US $90) so the same police station would release her nephew, who had been detained on different charges.

The police captain decided to refer A.H. and C. to the prosecutor’s office.

During the day of Nov. 20, Togué kept pushing for the men’s release, but did not convince the local Ekounou prosecutor, so he turned to the prosecutor at the Superior Court.

The men’s families began to panic.

At the local prosecutor’s office, bailiffs negotiated with C.’s family, telling them that he could be released in exchange for a bribe of 150,000 FCA francs (about US $270 or 233 euros) for the prosecutor.

Exactly what happened in those negotiations is unknown, but C. and A.H. were released at about 6:45 p.m.

It later became clear that the same police informer who entrapped C. had also entrapped A.H.

That man, identified as “Serge” in the previous article about A.H., works with the police to find young victims. He pretends to be gay so he can lure those youths into a police trap, which they can only escape by paying a bribe.

The author of this article is an activist for LGBTI rights in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym.

2 thoughts on “Cameroon police entrap gay men to extort bribes

  1. Pingback: Outing in Cameroon ends in homelessness | 76 CRIMES

  2. Pingback: End is near for visits boosting LGBTI prisoners in Cameroon | 76 CRIMES

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