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History      Geuzen Monument      Commemoration      Geuzen Medal      Geuzenpenning Foundation     
                                                     
PRESS RELEASE


Alice Nkom and Michel Togué to receive Geuzen Medal 2017

 

The Geuzen Medal for 2017 will be awarded toAlice Nkom and Michel Togué, two lawyers from Cameroon.Very few lawyers in Cameroon are prepared to defend gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people; two lawyers who are prepared to defend them are Alice Nkom and Michel Togué. Despite receiving serious threats, they continue to do so unabated. After all, it concerns one of the universal human rights: the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

 

This was announced today, Friday, 13 January by the Geuzenpenning Foundation. The award ceremony will be held on Monday, 13 March 2017 in the Grote Kerk (Great Church) of Vlaardingen. The Geuzen Medal is awarded as a tribute to people and organisations working for human rights and who oppose dictatorship, discrimination and racism.

 

In Cameroon, gays and lesbians are actively sought under Article 347 bis of its Penal Code. This article punishes people who have sexual relations with a person of the same sex. Offenders risk a prison sentence of up to five years and a heavy fine. According to a report of Amnesty International from 2013 (‘Making love a crime’), detainees are beaten, subjected to humiliating examinations and locked up in isolation cells without being charged. Alice Nkom and Michel Togué are regularly confronted with this in their daily practice.

 

Simply drinking a glass of Baileys can be a reason for arrest. Because, or so it is argued, Baileys is considered a woman’s drink and therefore a man who drinks it must be gay. Men who, according to the government, practise a ‘typical female job’ like that of hairdresser, also run the risk of being arrested.

 

Alice Nkom has been a lawyer in Douala since 1969 and was the first lawyer in Cameroon with a dark skin colour. In 2003, she established ADEFHO (L'Association pour la défense des droits des Homosexuels), an organisation that defends the rights of gays and lesbians in Cameroon. Abolishing the contested Article 347 bis is one of her main objectives.

Alice Nkom encounters a lot of opposition from the government in her work. For example, she was threatened with arrest after receiving a subsidy from the EU. She was also detained by the police without reason during visits to her clients. Furthermore, attempts have been made to have her struck off the roll and thus make her work as a lawyer impossible.

In 2013 she defended Jean-Claude Roger Mbede. Despite protests from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, he was incarcerated for three years under appalling conditions because he had sent a text message to a man. Due to health reasons he was released but died later. As a result of this case, Alice Nkom received many insults and threats.

 

Michel Togué works in Yaoundé, the capital city of Cameroon. He began assisting gays in 2003 after he met a man who had in vain asked six colleagues of Togué for help. In the following years Togué was frequently threatened, sometimes anonymously but also openly. Requests for protection in reference to these threats were rejected by the police and the government. Neither was there an investigation of these threats. His family has had to leave the country as a result of all these threats. Togué himself has remained in Cameroon because he would otherwise have the feeling that he had given up the battle for a better Cameroon.

 

In 2013 his office was searched and his passport, laptop and confidential information disappeared. The burglary was never resolved. In 2015, he and other human rights activists led a march for Eric Lembembe, a man who had also fought for the rights of gays and lesbians and who was tortured and murdered in his home in 2013.

The hard and dangerous work of Alice Nkom and Michel Togué has certainly not been without result. The number of convictions in Cameroon on the grounds of Article 347 bis has fallen sharply in recent years; a change seems to have taken place. However, the article still remains in black and white in the Penal Code of Cameroon.

 

Geuzen Medal

The Geuzen Medal has been awarded to various organisations and people since 1987. The Geuzen Medal is an initiative of the Geuzenpenning Foundation. This organisation was established by the former Dutch resistance fighters who were active in World War II. The Geuzen Medal is intended to honour and support today’s freedom fighters and human rights activists. The Chairman is Frans Weisglas, the former chairman of the Lower House.

 

The Geuzen Medal was previously awarded to people such as the Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt (2004), the Tunisian human rights lawyer Radhia Nasraoui (2013), the Swedish human rights activist Thomas Hammarberg and to organisations such as the International Campaign for Tibet (2005), Human Rights Watch (2007) and Free Press Unlimited (2015). Last year the Geuzen Medal was awarded to the search and rescue organisation MOAS. Further information about the Geuzen Medal can be found at www.geuzenpenning.nl.



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