Communiqué: IHRDA condemns arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders in Tanzania, calls for immediate release

Banjul, 24 October 2017: Following news of the unlawful arrest of thirteen (13) human rights defenders in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, on 17 October 2017, IHRDA condemns the arrest and calls on Tanzanian authorities to release the said detainees.

A legal consultation convened by the “Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA)” and “Community Health Services and Advocacy (CHESA)” was underway Tuesday 17 October 2017 when the Tanzanian Police raided the scene and led away the human rights defenders in attendance, confiscating their passports. The consultation was convened to prepare a lawsuit concerning government’s decision to limit the provision of certain health services that it had previously provided.

We gathered from our sources that Tanzanian authorities accuse the activists of promoting homosexuality, though local police had a copy of the concept note and the agenda of the consultation which was clearly to discuss a very specific case to be referred to the court. The substance of the consultations was very much in accordance with provisions of the Tanzanian Constitution and other international legal instruments to which Tanzania is a party, which allow for the right to seek legal redress when fundamental rights have been violated.

Bail had earlier been granted to the arrested activists, but eventually revoked.

IHRDA sees the move by government of Tanzania as a denial of access to justice; investigation for a criminal offence that does not exist; arbitrary arrest, and abuse of public power.

We therefore urge government of Tanzania to release the said activists, and allow citizens to access legal representation without intimidation in accordance with Tanzania’s human rights obligations.

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