The Cameroonian government has refused to release nine men jailed on charges of homosexuality despite their acquittal, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).

The men have been detained in Kondegui Prison in Yaoundé for nearly a year after being accused of gay acts.

At their initial trial, no witnesses were called and no proof offered by the prosecution, so Judge Tonye, the magistrate overseeing the case, declared the men innocent of all charges. The men expected to be released from prison quickly but the prosecutor’s office has refused to order their release and has said that the men will be retried.

“You arrest people unfairly, violate their rights for almost a year, and then refuse to release them-this constitutes an abuse of power,” Duga Titanji, the men’s attorney in Cameroon, told IGLHRC.

“This development constitutes a major violation of due process. With no new arrest warrant being served, this is now a blatant case of arbitrary detention.”

IGLHRC was alerted to the arrests of the men within days of its occurrence on May 21, 2005 and arranged for Mr. Titanji to take their case. Along with local and international human rights advocates, IGLHRC has repeatedly demanded the unconditional release of the nine men to both Cameroonian and United Nations officials, and provided emergency assistance to help the men survive the harsh conditions of their detention.

Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that, “No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted.

“This is nothing more than double jeopardy. The Cameroonian government has upended the entire judicial process in this case and is showing blatant disregard for legal procedures,” said Cary Alan Johnson, senior coordinator for Africa at IGLHRC. “We will work with Cameroonian activists to confront this brazen abuse in the courts and at the national and international diplomatic levels.”