TANZANIA: Stop harassment against human rights defenders!

Press release

Paris-Geneva, February 17, 2012. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), denounces the current acts of harassment faced by 16 human rights defenders in Tanzania, who are summoned to the police station of Ilala District, Dar-es-salaam, on February 20.

On February 9, 2012, 16 human rights defenders were arrested in Dar-es-Salaam, then charged with “unlawful assembly”, before being released on bail at around 6 pm on the same day. Those arrested include Dr. Helen Kijo Bisimba, Executive Director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) - focal point organisation of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) in Tanzania, as well as LHRC staff members Mr. Marcus Albany, Ms. Anna Migila and Advocate Godfrey Mpandikizi, an intern from the Canadian Bar Association Ms. Erin Riley, the Executive Director of the Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) Mrs. Ananilea Nkya, the Executive Director of SIKIKA Mr. Irenei Kiria as well as Ms. Anna Kikwa. No further information could be obtained regarding the names of the eight other human rights defenders.

All were arrested as they arrived at the National Hospital (MUHIMBILI), where the Prime Minister Hon. Mizengo Pinda was addressing doctors and health staff in relation to a strike organised by doctors throughout the country. A day earlier, about 200 activists including some of the 16 human rights defenders mentioned above had occupied a major bridge and surrounding roads in the city to push the Government to reconcile with the strike of the doctors, who had demands which the Government did not want to address : improvement of working conditions through the delivery of all the necessary and essential medicine and equipments within hospitals, a rise in the overtime allowance, a salary increase, a medical insurance and a risk allowance. The protesters called on the Minister of Health and Social Welfare and other senior officials to resign over their failure to resolve the health crisis in the country, and urged the President to intervene to resolve the crisis immediately. In the end the Government agreed to address some of these demands in stages.

On February 14, the 16 human rights defenders were summoned to the Oysterbay police station, Kinondoni District, in Dar-es-salaam. There, they were told to go to another police station of Ilala District, Dar-es-salaam, where they were informed in the end that they had to come back on February 20, 2012 to the same place, when it would be decided whether to maintain or drop the charges pending against them.

The Observatory firmly denounces these acts of legal harassment and calls upon the Tanzanian authorities to stop any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against the 16 above-mentioned human rights defenders, in line with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments ratified by Tanzania.

For more information, please contact:
· FIDH: Karine Appy / Arthur Manet: + 33 1 43 55 25 18
· OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: + 41 22 809 49 39

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