LHR condemns the arrest of 13 human rights defenders in Tanzania

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) is shocked by the arrest of 13 human rights activists, including two South African citizens, in Tanzania. Tanzanian police allegedly raided a legal consultation meeting, convened by the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (Isla) and Community Health Services and Advocacy (Chesa), in Dar es Salaam. The arrested activists were initially released on bail, which was subsequently revoked. Today, another application for bail will be made.

The arrests were said to be due to the fact that the activists were “promoting homosexuality.” However, LHR believes this reason is not only feeble, but disingenuous, given that the Tanzanian police were in possession of a concept note and agenda for the legal consultation meeting. It is clear from that documentation that the meeting, convened by Isla, was aimed at taking legal instructions on a possible challenge to the government’s ban on drop-in centers serving key populations at risk of HIV.

Sanja Bornman of the LHR Gender Equality Programme said, “There is no legal basis for these arrests, nor the subsequent granting and then bizarre revoking of bail. This appears to be an attempt to corral and intimidate human rights defender and attorneys, lawfully taking instructions from clients for a legal challenge. It is unacceptable and entirely contrary to Tanzania’s regional and international human rights obligations. We call on the Tanzanian authorities to immediately release all the detained activists, including our South African colleagues.”

Jacob van Garderen, LHR’s national director, said, “Unfortunately, these events underscore the vulnerable position of human rights defender on the continent. The use of police and other security forces to intimidate, discourage, and impede those who seek to enforce their human rights creates an environment in which ordinary people become fearful to know and use the law.”

For more information:

Carol Mohlala 079 239 9826