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Tanzania: Arrests of human rights defenders, lawyers and their clients for ’promoting homosexuality’

Friday 20 October 2017, by siawi3

Source: sent by Women Human Rights Defenders - International Coalition

Arrests in Tanzania

20.10.2017

PRESS STATEMENT

Issued by CHESA and ISLA

Dar-es-Salaam, 20 October 2016- On Tuesday, 17 October 2017, a legal consultation convened by the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) and Community Health Services and Advocacy (CHESA) was raided by the Tanzanian Police. The consultation was convened in order to get more instructions and evidence on a case that we plan to file before a court. The case concerns a challenge to government’s decision to limit the provision of certain health services that it had previously provided.

Thirteen people were detained and released on bail with no charges made. On Wednesday, the Regional Commissioner of police issued a press statement, referring to the “arrests” and stated that twelve people who were promoting homosexuality had been arrested. This mischaracterisation of a legal consultation where lawyers and their clients were discussing a very specific case to be referred to the court is unfortunate. The police had a copy of the concept note and the agenda of the consultation. Three lawyers were part of the group, that was detained, include ISLA’s executive director, Sibongile Ndashe. The bail was revoked on Friday 20 October 2017 with the view of starting the investigation afresh. All thirteen people are back in custody.

The Tanzanian Constitution enshrines the right to seek legal redress when fundamental rights have been violated (Art 30(3)). The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights, which Tanzania is a signatory to, also recognises an individual’s right to an appeal to competent national organs against acts violating his fundamental rights as recognised and guaranteed by conventions, laws and customs in force (Art 7(a)). Tanzania is a signatory to a number of international human rights treaties that recognizes these and other related rights.

We view this as an attempt to intimidate citizens from approaching judicial institutions when their rights have been violated, to create an environment where lawyers are afraid to provide legal representation and to ultimately create an environment where it is unthinkable to hold the state accountable for human rights violations. There is no legal basis for these proceedings. We call upon Tanzanian authorities to discontinue the ongoing persecution of lawyers and their clients. Allow citizens to access legal representation without intimidation and allow the foreign nationals whose passports have been seized to leave the country.

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CALL FOR ACTION

Please, add your logo, signature and name at the bottom, and send to authorities below. Feel free to adapt as you deem appropriate.

October 20, 2017

To the Hon. George Mcheche Masaju
Attorney General of the United Republic of Tanzania
Email: g.masaju bunge.go.tz; ag agctz.go.tz

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To the Hon. Bahame T.M. Nyanduga
Chairperson, Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance
United Republic of Tanzania
Email: bahame.nyanduga chragg.go.tz

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To the Hon. Adv. Pansy Tlakula
Chairperson, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Email: pansy.tlakula gmail.com

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To the Hon. Soyata Maiga
Vice- Chairperson, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Email: cabinetsoya afribone.net.ml; soyatam yahoo.fr

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To the Hon. Solomon Ayele Dersso
Commissioner, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Email: Solomon.dersson gmail.com

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Sample letter

Your Excellencies,

We are writing regarding the recent arrests of thirteen persons, including three lawyers and their clients that was recently carried out by the Tanzanian Police.

On Tuesday, 17 October 2017, a legal consultation convened by the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) and the Community Health Services and Advocacy (CHESA) was raided by the Tanzanian Police. The consultation was convened in order to get more instructions and evidence on a case that the two organizations planned to file before a court concerning a challenge to government’s decision to limit the provision of certain health services that it had previously provided.

Thirteen people, including two South African citizens, one Ugandan citizen, were detained. Among the arrested persons are ISLA’s executive director, Sibongile Ndashe, and CHESA’s director, John Kashiha. No one was charged but all were granted bail.

On Wednesday, the Regional Commissioner of police issued a press statement referring to the “arrests” and stated that twelve people who were promoting homosexuality had been arrested. On Friday 20 October 2017, the bail was revoked for everyone for no reason. They were advised that a fresh investigation process was starting and everyone was taken to custody.

The mischaracterization of a legal consultation where lawyers and their clients were discussing a very specific case to be referred to the court as “promotion of homosexuality” is unfortunate and concerning. The police had a copy of the concept note and the agenda of the consultation.

Even more alarming is that three lawyers who were part of the group, including Sibongile Ndashe, were arrested together with their clients.

The Tanzanian Constitution enshrines the right to seek legal redress when fundamental rights have been violated (Art 30(3)). The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights, which Tanzania is a signatory to, also recognizes an individual’s right to an appeal to competent national organs against acts violating his fundamental rights as recognized and guaranteed by conventions, laws and customs in force (Art 7(a)). Tanzania is a signatory to a number of international human rights treaties that recognizes these and other related rights.

The arrest of the thirteen people mentioned above is an attempt to intimidate citizens from approaching judicial institutions when their rights have been violated. Furthermore, the arrest of lawyers while they are advising their clients on the steps to be taken to seek legal redress is clearly aimed at creating an environment where lawyers are afraid to provide legal representation and to ultimately create an environment where it is unthinkable to hold the state accountable for human rights violations.

We are strongly convinced that there is no legal basis for these proceedings, as demonstrated by the press statement released by the Regional Commissioner of police, and that the arrests are arbitrary and politically motivated.

Therefore, we call upon Tanzanian authorities to immediately release the thirteen individuals who are currently arbitrarily detained; to allow citizens to access legal representation without intimidation; to discontinue the ongoing persecution of human rights defenders, lawyers and their clients and refrain from such future actions; and to allow the foreign nationals, whose passports have been seized, to leave the country.

Sincerely,

[name and signature]