The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is calling on Cameroon to end the enforcement of homophobic laws ahead of an appeal involving three men.

Addressing a news conference in Geneva on Friday, OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville said that the laws breach Cameroon’s international human rights commitments and violates rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination.

“While the penal code relates specifically to sexual conduct, we are seriously concerned that it is being applied in a broad-brush way to prosecute many individuals on the basis of their appearance, their mannerisms, style of speech or general conduct,” Mr Colville said.

In 2011, Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was convicted of suspected homosexual conduct after authorities discovered he had sent a text message to another man that said: “I am very much in love with you.”

In addition, Jonas Singa Kumie and Franky Djome were convicted on the basis of their appearance, which was perceived as effeminate, and the fact that they had been seen drinking Baileys.

The pair were arrested in July 2011 in a car outside of a night club in the Cameroonian capital Yaoundé.

All three men have an appeal hearing next week.

Earlier this month, two prominent lawyers, who have been helping the men, revealed that they had been on the receiving end of death threats – with warnings also made to their families.

In response, Mr Colville said: “The government of Cameroon has a duty to end these abuses. It should provide adequate protection to human rights defenders working to protect the rights of LGBT persons.”