Open letter to the Hon. President of the United Republic of Tanzania

Press release
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Hon. Benjamin William Mkapa
To the Hon. President of the revolutionary government of Zanzibar
Hon. Aman Karume
The Inspector General of Police
Paris, 31th January 2001

Your excellencies,

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) has just been informed by the Legal and Human Rights Center, based in Dar El Salaam and member of the FIDH of the serious human rights violations which occurred in Zanzibar, Pemba, and in Dar Es Salaam on 26 and 27 January 2001.

According to the information, the CUF opposition party in Zanzibar attempted to stage peaceful demonstrations across the country in order to demand the re-run of the elections in Zanzibar which were reportedly unfair, a renewing of the Constitution to enact a more democratic text, and a reconstruction of the electoral commission to render them more independent. Although articles 18 and 20 of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania recognizes specifically the freedom of opinion and the freedom to peacefully assemble and/or demonstrate, both the head of the government, namely the Prime Minister and the Vice President and the police banned those demonstrations and warned that tough measures would be taken against anybody who would demonstrate. In response to these threats, the CUF supporters protested that the police orders were against their constitutional rights, and that the police had no legal mandate to deny them the right to assembly. The police committed violations despite appeals from lawyers; the media, and reputable CCM members.

On 26 January, on the eve of the demonstrations, a number of worshippers gathered outside the Mosque in Zanzibar, reportedly to discuss the situation in Zanzibar. A group of armed police official that was stationed nearby ordered them to disperse. While still questioning why that order was being given, the policemen attacked them and shot dead two.

This was the beginning of the unprecedented killings. On 27 January in Zanzibar and Pemba islands, a few CUF supporters attempted to demonstrate in defiance of the police interdiction order. Allegedly in an effort to prevent demonstrations the police forces killed 13 people and lost 2 police officials who were murdered by the demonstrators.

Apart from shooting, the police force used tear gas against unarmed demonstrators in Dar Es Salaam, Mwanza and Kagera regions, blocked the roads and prevented the injured from being taken to the hospital, which contributed to further losses of life.

More than 200 persons, mainly in Dar Es Salam, are now detained by the police for taking part in unlawful demonstrations. Part of these arbitrary arrests concern a number of CUF supporters including the National Chairman Professor Ibrahim Lipumba stand charged for conducting illegal meeting, though he was apparently released on bail on 30 January. Before being charged, the accused were reportedly severely beaten up and badly injured. Furthermore, the media related that they were undergoing torture.

As of 29 January, the death toll was reported at 37 people (24 in Pemba island), all of them died at the hands of police under the close commanding of the highest police chief in the country. However, today we were alarmed to learn that the death toll rose to around 300 after reports that police had opened fire on people fleeing by boat to Kenya.

The FIDH and the Legal and Human Rights Centre severely condemn the excessive use of force and the mass killings. We urgently call upon the authorities of the United Republic of Tanzania and the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar to:

- Immediately release all detainees and put an end to torture,
- fully investigate by an independent team, and publicly report the circumstances of killings, arrests and torture; and use of excessive force by the police; and work towards compensation for the loss occasioned
- take legal measures against those violators of human rights in particular unruly police officials
- respect the freedom of free speech and demonstration as provided by the articles 18 and 20 of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania
- implement all the international instruments relative to human rights that Tanzania had accepted and ratified in particular article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, article 11 of the African Charter on Human Rights and People’s Rights.

We firmly believe that only once these measures are taken can there be some restoration of calm and peace in Zanzibar, Pemba, and mainland Tanzania.

Yours sincerely;

Sidiki Kaba
International Federation of Human Rights

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