In Cameroon, human rights defenders and journalists critical of the government are particularly targeted and often face harassment. HRDs working on minority and land issues as well as those working on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexed (LGBTI) rights are particularly vulnerable.
Security forces have tortured, beaten, harassed, and abused citizens, journalists, detainees and human rights defenders, especially those who are members of the LGBTI community. Governmental authorities have also impeded the effectiveness of human rights NGOs by disrupting their gatherings, harassing and threatening violence against their members, in addition to violently dispersing peaceful demonstrations. When a HRD receives threats by telephone, text message, or e-mail, authorities rarely take action to investigate such occurrences.
In late 2014, Cameroon’s legislature passed anti-terrorism legislation that allows for Cameroonian citizens to be charged in military courts and to face the death penalty if they, either as individuals or in a group, carry out, abet, or sponsor terrorism. The law, which was ratified by President Paul Biya in early 2015, contains vague definitions of “terrorism” including disturbing the normal functioning of the public services or the provision of essential services to the population, or creating a situation of crisis within the population. This anti-terrorism law has been used as a means to criminalize opponents of the government. In the autumn of 2016, lawyers, teachers and HRDs initiated a series of protests against discrimination in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. In response to the protests, the internet was shut off in Anglophone parts of the country for a number of months. HRDs leading the call to respect the human rights of citizens in these regions were the first to be targeted and charged by the authorities under the 2014 anti-terrorism law.