Earlier this year, we had the profound honor of meeting Susan Mirembe Nalunkuma, a Ugandan lawyer and legal scholar who has done tremendous work advocating for women’s rights, sexual rights, and third gender recognition in South Africa and beyond. Last week, she and 12 other human rights advocates were targeted by authorities. They were building a case to fight the government’s ban on drop-in centers serving key populations at risk of HIV, as well as the ban on importation of water-based lubricants, an essential HIV prevention tool. Read more here.
Claiming the reason was for “promoting homosexuality” court officials revoked their bail. They are still in jail because the homophobic police and government are trying to silence and intimidate all Africans who dare to fight for their rights.
Stand with them today by emailing the form letter below to Tanzanian consulates (scroll down) to advocate for their IMMEDIATE release!
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 On Friday 20 October 2017, the bail was revoked for everyone for no reason.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.
[name and signature]
To the Hon. George Mcheche Masaju
Attorney General of the United Republic of Tanzania
To the Hon. Bahame T.M. Nyanduga
Chairperson, Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance
United Republic of Tanzania
To the Hon. Adv. Pansy Tlakula
Chairperson, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
To the Hon. Soyata Maiga
Vice- Chairperson, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
To the Hon. Solomon Ayele Dersso
Commissioner, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
To the Hon. Dr. Al H. Anderson
Tanzanian Honorary Consulate in Atlanta, United States
To the Hon. Robert Samuel Shumake
Tanzanian Honorary Consulate in Detroit, United States
To the Hon. Kjell Bergh
Tanzanian Honorary Consulate in Minneapolis, United States
To the Hon. Suzanne Haik Terrell
Tanzanian Honorary Consulate in New Orleans, United States
To the Hon. Charles Grey
Tanzanian Honorary Consulate in Philadelphia, United States