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Cameroonian LGBTI activist found tortured to death in home

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Prominent Cameroonian LGBTI activist and journalist Eric Ohena Lembembe was found brutally tortured and murdered in his home in the latest of a series of violent anti-LGBTI hate crimes in Cameroon.

Lembembe's friends went to his home after being unable to contact him for days by telephone, and found his apartment in Yaounde padlocked from the outside. Through the window, they saw his body and called the police. Police broke in the door. One friend said his neck and feet were broken, and his face, hands, and feet were burned with an iron.

Eric was one of the most prominent LGBTI activists in Cameroon and the executive director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS). He was well-known for his collaboration with various LGBTI rights organizations on a March 2013 report on the unfair prosecution of same-sex conduct titled Guilty by Association.

Only 10 days before his body was found, Lembembe wrote an article calling for the Cameroonian government to end their "absurd and despicable" silence in response to the way they handled the most recent LGBTI hate crimes in Cameroon.

On June 26th, "unidentified assailants" burned down the headquarters of Alternatives-Cameroun, an organization that provided HIV-related services to LGBTI people in Cameroon. On June 16th, human rights lawyer Michel Togué was burgled, his legal files and laptop stolen in the burglary. Togué and Alice Nkom, another lawyer with LGBTI clients, have received death threats, as well as threats to the lives of their children.

All of these incidents have been reported to authorities, but not a single suspect has been apprehended in relation to any of the cases.

In the wake of Eric's brutal murder, Human Rights Watch and the US Department of State issued a call to action to Cameroonian authorities to investigate his torture and killing.

Recently, the films God Loves Uganda and Call me Kuchu have brought attention to the dangerous effects of the often homophobic teachings of radical evangelical missionaries in Africa. 

Cameroon is one of the 38 African countries in which same-sex conduct is punishable by law. Human Rights Watch reports that Cameroon prosecutes consensual same-sex conduct more rigorously than almost any country in the world.  

Like David Kato, the outspoken Ugandan gay rights activist who was beaten to death in 2011, Lembembe stood up for LGBT equality at great risk, and GLAAD urges the media to report on the critical work to which he dedicated his life.

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