Tanzania: Attemps to hinder book launch event and arbitrary arrest of Messrs. Onesmo and Baraka

Urgent Appeal

TZA 002 / 0617 / OBS 062
Arbitrary Arrest / Release on bail /
Judicial Harassment / Obstacle to freedom of peaceful assembly
June 9, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Tanzania.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about police attempts to hinder a meeting organised by an NGO, including via the arbitrary arrest and subsequent release of Mr. Ole Ngurumwa Onesmo, National Coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC), and Mr. John Baraka, Coordinator of the Tanzania Students Networking Programme (TSNP), known for advocating and supporting the role of human rights defenders in public life and civil society at large.

According to the information received, on June 3, 2017, TSNP was informed by the owners of the Blue Pearl Hotel that they could not enter without a permission letter from the police the venue of a book launch event scheduled to take place at the Ubungo Plaza, Blue Pearl Hotel to present Sauti ya Watetezi wa Haki Vyuoni (The Voice of Human Rights Defenders in Universities), a book that illustrates the harassment tactics used to remove human rights defenders from positions in higher education institutions in Tanzania, authored by Alphonce Lusako [1], the General Secretary of TSNP.

Three police vehicles then arrived at the hotel while event organisers were negotiating with hotel management out-front and arrested Mr. Baraka. When Mr. Onesmo objected to his arrest, he was then immediately arrested too. Both were transported to Magomeni Police Station without having their charges articulated to them. THRDC Advocate Mr. Jones Sendodo attempted to inquire about the nature of the charges, but police were unable to confirm any charges at the time of the arrests. Police informed Mr. Sendodo they were awaiting orders from superior authorities.

On the same day, Messrs. Onesmo and Baraka were later charged with criminal trespass, after the Ubungo Plaza, Blue Pearl Hotel filed a complaint stating the men had forced the hotel to host the launch event for their colleague Mr. Alphonce Lusako. Messrs. Onesmo and Baraka were released on bail that same day, with instructions to report to the police on June 5, 2017 [2].

Reporting to the station on June 5, the men were informed that the Blue Pearl Hotel had not yet filed documentation required to formalize their complaint. They were ordered to return on June 7, 2017. When contacted by Mr. Onesmo on June 6, the Blue Pearl Hotel claimed to be unaware of any criminal complaints against Messrs. Baraka, and Onesmo. However, it was only on June 7 that Blue Pearl representatives confirmed that they had filed a complaint at the direction of an “unknown authority”.

As of June, 7 2017, the Blue Pearl Hotel has not presented any evidence or documentation to police to substantiate their claims. Indeed, TSNP reported that Blue Pearl Hotel had freely agreed to host the event, had received the payment agreed upon for hosting it and was issued the corresponding receipt. Therefore the Police informed Mr. Onesmo that they would expedite the investigation to compel Blue Pearl to provide evidence.

The Observatory was also informed that the incident described above was not the first attempt to hinder the book launch event. Indeed, the event was initially planned to be held at the Commission of Science Technology (COSTECH), an institution affiliated with the government of Tanzania. In violation of a contractual agreement, COSTECH cancelled the event, forcing the organisers to move the event to the Ubungo Plaza, Blue Pearl Hotel [3], where THRDC had already organised several events without any issue.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern with the arrests and judicial harassment of Messrs. Onesmo and Baraka, as they appear to be linked to their human rights activities, and condemns the unlawful interference with TSNP’s right to organise meetings in private locations, in violation of domestic, regional and international provisions guaranteeing the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

The Observatory urges the Tanzanian authorities to drop all charges against Messrs. Onesmo and Baraka and to ensure that all judicial proceedings against them are carried out in full compliance with their right to a fair trial as protected under domestic and international law.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Tanzania asking them to:

Put an end to all forms of harassment against Messrs. Onesmo and Baraka, including at the judicial level, against them as well as against all members of the TSNP and the THRDC and generally against all human rights defenders in Tanzania; 

Guarantee Messrs. Onesmo and Baraka’s right to due process and a fair trial, as protected under domestic and international law;

Order an immediate, thorough, transparent investigation into the facts, including the alleged interference of state authorities, mentioned in this urgent appeal in order to clarify the events, identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and apply them the sanctions provided by the law ;

Conform with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, especially especially Articles 1 and 12.2;

Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Tanzania.


 President of Tanzania, Hon. Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli; Fax: +255 22 2113425; E-mail: ikulu@ikulu.go.tz
 Prime Minister of Tanzania, Rt. Hon. Kassim Majaliwa; Fax: +255 22 2112850; E-mail: ps@pmo.go.tz
 Minister of Constitutional Affairs and Justice, Hon. Prof. Palamagamba John Kabudi; Fax: +255 22 211 3236; E-mail: katibumkuu@sheria.go.tz
 Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Hon. Dkt. Augustine Mahiga; Fax: +255 (0)22 226600 
 H.E. Mrs. Agnes Kayola, Ambassador, Embassy of Tanzania in Brussels, Belgium; Fax (0032) (0) 2 646 80 26; Email: tanzania@skynet.be 
 H.E. Dr. James Alex Msekela, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of the United Republic of Tanzania to the United Nations, Geneva and Vienna, Fax: +41 22 732 82 55; Email: mission.tanzania@ties.itu.int.
 Executive Secretary of the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG); Email: chragg@chragg.go.tz/mary.massay@chragg.go.tz, Fax: +255 22 2111533/2111281.

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Tanzania in your respective countries.


Geneva-Paris, June 9, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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